Read Isaiah 29
Focus on verse 13
Insincerity is like a paper mask that smiles at all who see it while the face behind the mask is frowning. In North American culture I have found it in every place that I have lived though it goes by different names, the effect is the same. In Minnesota the Nordic cultures call it “Minnesota Nice” and it is justified as being tactful and/or polite. In essence the practice is that no matter what is going on we smile and speak politely and kindly to the faces of people as we inwardly are thinking about how uncomfortable the situation is, how much we don’t like the person we are smiling at, and we devise a plan to avoid any further contact with the person if possible as we smile and politely lie through our teeth saying, “thanks so much for the visit, I had a wonderful time”.
Down in the south the pattern is slightly different but has a similar effect. Again, it involves the polite smile and the and the tactful words, but it seems slightly more honest to me as here in the south you can apparently get away with being a little more truthful if you follow it up with “bless your heart”. So if you see an ugly baby you don’t have to outright lie if you say something like “awe…isn’t that cute, he resembles a walrus – bless his heart”.
Now, that being said – and I may have generalized and exaggerated it a little – I’m not sure the best alternative is simply to brutally blurt out exactly what we are thinking in all cases just to be honest. There is something to be said for using tact in deciding what may or may not be appropriate to express in any given social situation, and though it may seem insincere to not express exactly what one feels at times, there are many situation where the advice from the old Disney animated feature Bambi is the wisest choice. If I recall correctly, his words were, “If you can’t say anything nice, just don’t say nothin’ at all.” This might make for an uncomfortable silence in some social settings, but it may also prevent us from having to choose between saying things that are either deeply hurtful or blatantly insincere.
According to today’s reading one of the situations where insincerity is most harmful to us is when it creeps into our relationship with God. As Isaiah delivers the message of the Lord to the people of Jerusalem in this chapter, he says, “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…” (v. 13) The Lord then warns the people of the consequences that their insincerity has brought upon them.
The problem with being insincere with God is that He isn’t fooled by it for an instant. We might be able to hide our true feelings from other people, but God knows our hearts better than we ourselves do. This is the one relationship where we are encouraged to be brutally honest about how we feel. God is not offended when we express to Him that we are angry or disillusioned, or confused. I believe He would rather hear us express our feeling honestly to Him in angry curse words, than to hear us tell Him we love Him and everything is wonderful when we know in our hearts that it is not. We don’t do ourselves any favors by being insincere with God as it just feeds the deception that we have already begun to believe.
Tact is something that is necessary in our interaction with people, but God already knows our hearts. It is very often as we allow our hearts to be exposed before Him that we can see more clearly what lies within our own hearts. In this way He helps us become true to ourselves as well as to Him. Interestingly as our communication and relationship with God improves, we often see an equal improvement in the way we relate and communicate with the people around us as well.