Are we really sincere?

November 11, 2009 — 3 Comments

God is big enough to handle our honesty.

I can tell when my kids are lying to me and every time they do it breaks my heart.  One of the most important lessons they will learn is that honesty is always the best choice.  With God’s help I can handle anything they confess to me.

I long for the same thing God longs for from his children:  sincerity.

The word “sincerity” comes from two Latin words:  “sin” which means“without” and “cera” which means “wax.”  So, literally, sincerely means “without wax.”  This word dates back to ancient Greece.

Unscrupulous marble sculptors in ancient Greece would cover up and fill in cracks in their statues with wax.  This temporary fix would allow them to sell imperfect statues as full price.  The only way the imperfections in the statue would be revealed would be if the statue were subjected to intense heat—like sunlight.  The heat of the sun would cause the wax to melt and all of the flaws in imperfect statues and dishonest sculptors would be revealed for all to see.

Honest sculptors began to label their statues, “Sin Cera,” which meant, “Without Wax.”  This is the origin of our word, “Sincerely.”

God wants our lives to be labeled, “Sin Cera.”  He is not fooled by the wax we use to try to cover the imperfections we don’t want him, or anyone else, to see.

Note:  Although I learned of the etymology of the word “sincere” from a reputable source, an astute reader of this blog brought this important information to my attention.  I share it with you because I value the truth and want you to know that I may have been inadvertently mislead by a well-meaning teacher.   It’s from an entry on Wikipedia:

An often repeated folk etymology proposes that sincere is derived from the Latin sine = without, cera = wax. According to one popular explanation, dishonest sculptors in Rome or Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture “without wax” would mean honesty in its perfection.[4] Another explanation is that without wax etymology “is derived from a Greeks-bearing-gifts story of deceit and betrayal. For the feat of victory, the Romans demanded the handing over of obligatory tributes. Following bad advice, the Greeks resorted to some faux-marble statues made of wax, which they offered up as tribute. These promptly melted in the warm Greek sun.”[7] The Oxford English Dictionary states, however, that “There is no probability in the old explanation from sine cera ‘without wax'”. Also note the entry on sincere in An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Walter William Skeat (p. 555) and Storied Words: The Writer’s Vocabulary and Its Origins By Jeff Jeske (p. 145). The without wax etymology is popular enough to be a minor sub-plot in Dan Brown‘s Digital Fortress, though Brown attributes it to the Spanish language, not Latin. Reference to the same etymology, this time attributed to Latin, also appears in another of his books, The Lost Symbol.

Well, there goes another great illustration! 🙂


3 responses to Are we really sincere?


    I was searching out this info today, trying to make sure of the full story and found your blog in a search. While I too have found this same web info disputing the etymology of sincerity, I will refer you to an older source than the Oxford Dictionary that of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1828 (a popular home educators source for accurate definitions) let me quote for you:

    SINCERE, a. [Fr. from L. sincerus, which is said to be composed of sine, without, and sera, wax; as if applied originally to pure honey.] 1. Pure; unmixed. (plus two more points)

    Now I know that doesn’t prove the illustration of MacArthur and others it does indicate that reputable sources do site it as “without wax”. It also gives you another illustration…the desire for pure honey…without wax. All you need to do is purchase honey with the comb and have them taste the beeswax and see which they prefer. If you think about it, holding the honey to the light to see if there are any imperfections (wax), will be perfect for showing the need for believers to be transparent before God, and that nothing is hid from Him. (Behold thou God seeth me.) and who knows how many more illustrations!

    Continue to be a Berean…

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