Sun Tested – Etymology of the English word “sincere”

Grey (bro-in-law) & I are at the AFCA convention in Dallas right now.  This morning, we went to the FCA‘s worship service.  The speaker was Denton Bible Church’s Pastor, Tommy Nelson.  He spoke to coaches in the audience with passion from the Bible text of 2 Corinthians 1:12.

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”

And 2 Corinthians 2:17:

“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”

I was deeply moved by Tommy’s message about the Greek word -that is used for sincerity (sincere); εἰλικρινείας (eilikrineias).  The point he was trying to make to coaches is that our significant role in the lives of kids has been developing for a hundred or so years, since fathers first left their homes with the industrial revolution.  Coaches have often had to step into the typical role that should be held by the father, by (for good or bad) influencing hundreds of young men under their care.  Some of our players don’t have a father at home.  For those who do, our society has placed demands on a Dad’s time, and the expectations of his job and our modern world keep him away from home, and the daily influence of his son as powerfully as that relationship was 120 years ago.

The context of the message this morning was that Coaches certainly don’t replace fathers, but the role of a Coach has literally become close to that of a minister.  When this industrial revolution changed the family dynamic 120 or so years ago, Knute Rockne went before the U.S. Senate to address the role of Sport in helping train young men in the ways of real life.  In fact, football – to many coaches – most closely resembled the battles and war of real life.

In some cases, that father role can be filled by his Coach.  But before any Coach can truly teach and influence his young men, he must BE what they need to be in a man.  Maybe he can’t do all the drills, the exercises, or make the long throws.  But his life – especially that of a Christian Coach – has to be the thing that makes the impact on his players.  He must be… sine cere.

In the Greek AND Latin roots of the word sincere, the connotation of pure-ness and validity is far stronger than in the English.  In fact, the etymology of the word is best translated as “sun tested“.

In the Greco-Roman culture, if a ceramic or potter’s pot was sold, it was expected to be a quality piece of workmanship.  If you were more concerned with making money and pushing product than quality, you would quickly fire your pots in the kiln.  When they were quenched, and cooled down too quickly, they would crack.  A deceitful vendor would put wax paraffin in the cracks.  To the regular eye, it looks high in quality.  But if it were sine cere (Latin), or “sun tested,” it would be held up to the sun, and when the sun hit the pot, it would expose the cracks and show it to be a fraud.

The application from 2 Corinthians 1 & 2 is obvious.  Coaches (and all of us) must be “without wax”.  We should be “sun tested” and shown to be sincere, and true integrity shows through.  2 Corinthians 2:17 makes all the more sense when Paul explains that he and his companions: “do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”

The challenging thing for every Christian is that our daily walk must be authentic.  The wax in our cracks has to be eliminated, and if there are cracks in our pots, we need to patch them with the true potter’s clay, and have them re-fired in the kiln.  Jesus taught in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

That’s where the potter’s clay comes from.  Those of us who are weary and burdened have already experienced those cracks, and have tried and tried to fill it with paraffin; just can’t fix it ourselves.  Our hearts can only be filled by the fulfillment Jesus gives.  And the only way for us to be of any sincere influence to others is through keeping ourselves as finely cured pottery.

WOW, that’s difficult.  Father, I pray that you will help me to overcome my cracks, and not continue to fill them with wax so others don’t see them.  Help me to share my struggles with others, so my clay will be healed and the power of Christ will reign in me.


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