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Signs of Sincerity

James 1:26-27
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIVUK)

How do you know that a Christian is sincere about their faith and not play-acting (Isaiah 29:13)? Behaviour at church will not tell you everything. It is possible to say the right jargon words, adopt the body language of sincerity, and yet be a hypocrite (Matthew 6:5). The best places to tell if someone's belief is faithful or fake are at work, in the home and when we are on our own. What comes out of our mouths reflects what is in our hearts (Matthew 15:18-19). The discipline we apply to our tongue reflects what we believe is important. The workplace exposes most hypocrites simply by giving them non-Christian space to open their mouths. But those who are growing in their relationship with Jesus will want to speak so that He will be pleased.

At home, hidden away from the spotlight of fellowship, the way people treat their family members will show how much they value the kindness, compassion and love that the Lord has lavished on them (1 John 3:1). If we cannot care for the disabled, sick, infirm or disadvantaged in our family - how can we say that we value God's love? It may cost us time, energy and money to care for others; but it cost God the life of His own Son to care for us (Romans 5:6-8). And how do we honour the Lord when we are on our own? Does the anonymity of the big city give us licence to dishonour God by our behaviour - even if nobody else knows? The regular spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer, of waiting for God's time, service, and giving financially - are largely done secretly (Matthew 6:6). But they help us to keep unpolluted by the world, because our attention is on the Lord and His purposes, rather than on ourselves and our cravings.

True faith is outward looking, and not just a right concern that we should be acceptable to the Lord. In this disordered world, where disease, war, accident and death leave widows and orphans vulnerable to hunger, more disease and exploitation – what is the church to do? We cannot say that these people do not matter, because God cares personally about them (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 10:14). He expects his family to provide for them and refugees and curses those who refuse to provide for them (Deuteronomy 27:19). Malachi 3:5 says, "So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against … those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty."

This shows us that the workplace is far more than an environment in which we occupy our time, hopefully enjoying our work and earning our money. It is the proving ground for our faith. Here, we demonstrate what we believe, by what we say and how we live. And it is important, because in the workplace many will make up their minds about whether they should search for Jesus, by watching and listening to us. As our mouths open, they can see right into our hearts. If they wonder whether God would care for them, they look to see if we care for those close to us. If we are employers or managers, how we treat our workers validates the integrity of our faith. Our out-of-church-life is both worship and witness. When the Christian lives consistently for Christ, He is worshipped, and others are drawn to worship Him too.

Prayer 
Dear Lord God. Thank You for Your intense love for widows and orphans, the disabled, displaced and distressed. Forgive me for failing to work with You in meeting their needs. Please help me to see myself as I really am, because others can see it anyway. Help me to exercise the right disciplines over my mouth and private life, so that my treatment of others will demonstrate my worship of You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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