In a generation that has mostly had everything given to it free of charge there is little connection to this term 'without.' There are few examples or concept that connect us to the idea of sacrifice ... doing without ... giving from either scarceness or even abundance. Yet this little term is found throughout the faith we call Christianity. We are forgiven because God's plan was the sacrifice of His one and only Son for the atonement/forgiveness/washing of our sins. That truth is vital, foundational and wonderful!
There is a word used to describe the early Church in Acts 2 (specifically verse 46). The people enjoyed fellowship with 'sincere hearts'. What does that mean? The Biblical idea of sincerity is rooted in a phrase John Riley has used and I will attempt to convey. It is a very practical term flowing from the practice of selling marble and marble sculptures. In the old days when a marble sculpture was sold it was to be sold 'without wax' (the root concept for sincerity). When marble was carved there were often imperfections. If a sculpture had an imperfection it would bring less money and might even be too defaced to sell. So dishonest merchants would melt wax and fill in the imperfections with wax. When it got hot (maybe if the sculpture were placed in the sun) the wax would melt and the owner would realize he/she had been cheated. So sincere means without (sin) wax (cera). Hopefully you get the point!
A trait of the early Church was this sincerity. They lived life openly. They shared meals and shared hurts, victories, pain and pretty much everything. They shared their possessions and were willing to pitch in when needs were identified. I believe, in those early days, there was an honesty and sincerity. And this is a trait we should strive for. No scheming, undercurrents or hidden agendas for us! Because we are to be those people who are the same on Sunday, Monday and every other day.
I sometimes struggle with this. I rationalize ... "If they knew, they wouldn't like me!" ... "If they were aware of my plans they would be against me!" ... "If they knew my doubts they wouldn't believe or follow me!" All of these statements have 2 things in common. Did you see the word 'they'? As I scheme, cover up, obfuscate, inveigle, evade and generally cover my true self with wax, the purpose isn't noble. It is totally self-centered. That brings us to the 2nd word ... 'me.' Insincerity is all about me and it divides me from the other people I call they. It breeds divisiveness, hate, dishonesty and all manners of bad things. It should not be in the lexicon of the Church!
The early Church couldn't be self-centered and Christ-centered. Our country's founding couldn't have been self-centered and successful. Many people had to debate, disagree, compromise and cooperate in a setting where there was trust and focused purpose. No wax. "Lord ... keep our hearts sincere, open, transparent and 'without wax.' Thank you!" AMEN