Will Sincerity Alone Please God?
Is sincerity in worship sufficient? Or is something additional required to please God?
SINCERITY is a virtue. You surely would not appreciate it if someone regarded you as being insincere. Insincerity is akin to hypocrisy.
Sincerity in the way we worship God is also a virtue. Here, too, you surely do not want to be insincere, as this also would be similar to hypocrisy. It would be especially bad, since it is connected with one’s relationship to God.
Because the need for sincerity in worship is generally recognized, many persons, when asked what they think pleases God in the way of worship, reply: “Oh, I believe that if a person is sincere in his worship, regardless of the way he worships, this is pleasing to God.”
Do you feel that way? Do you believe that as long as one is sincere in the way he chooses to worship God, regardless of what that way is, this is acceptable and pleasing to God?
WHAT IF MISPLACED?
While sincerity is commendable, what if it is misplaced? What if the result of a belief or action is not as anticipated because that belief or course of action, however sincere, was in error?
Not long ago a drug called thalidomide was introduced on the market. It was used as a sedative and proved effective in inducing sleep. However, to the dismay of the whole world, it was later discovered that the drug was responsible for babies being born horribly deformed. Mothers who had taken the drug early in their pregnancy bore children who had deformed arms and legs, or who were lacking one or more of these limbs. Sometimes the external ears were missing. Deformities were also noted in the eyes, throat and intestinal tract. Swiftly the drug was removed from the market. Governments banned its distribution. It was definitely proved to be a threat to the birth of normal, healthy babies.
This drug was introduced in all sincerity. It was to be an aid to those having difficulties with sleep. Yet it proved a disaster. All the sincerity of doctors, druggists and scientists was of no avail. Their confidence in this new drug had been misplaced. Instead of proving a benefit to humanity, it proved a curse. Sincerity alone was not sufficient to produce pleasing results.
Again, how pleasing would it be to an employer if an employee did not do the work assigned to him, but took it upon himself to perform other work not delegated to him? Would the employer be happy that he did not carry out his assigned tasks? No, the employer hired the worker for a specific task and he expects that task to be accomplished. The worker might be sincere in walking off his assigned work to another job, but that sincerity would not be pleasing to the employer.
So, too, the builders of the superliner Titanic were sincere in feeling that the ship was virtually unsinkable. Yet on its maiden voyage in 1912 it struck an iceberg and quickly sank, with great loss of life. Her designers no doubt sincerely believed in the ship’s ability to withstand damage, but this sincerity did not prove to be enough.
SINCERE, YET DISPLEASING TO GOD
In the all-important matter of worshiping God, it is likewise true that sincerity alone does not guarantee that God is pleased with our worship. We may conscientiously believe we are doing well in this regard, yet we may be deluding ourselves.
This self-deception has happened time and again in history. It even had something to do with the very condition of misery, pain and death that the human race finds itself in today. How so? Back in the garden of Eden, some 6,000 years ago, the woman Eve thought she had a good idea. Someone had told her this: “God knows that in the very day of your eating from it [the tree in the middle of the garden] your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” What did Eve then do? “Consequently the woman saw that the tree’s fruit was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it.”—Gen. 3:5, 6.
Eve felt that the tree was good to eat from, and, after all, had not that voice told her that she would even be like God if she ate of it? She believed this, apparently in sincerity. She even gave her husband some of the fruit to eat.
But what was the result? God pronounced this decision: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Yes, the death penalty was pronounced against Adam and Eve.—Gen. 3:19.
Why? What had happened for this couple to be found worthy of death? The first human pair had overlooked something. God had warned: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”—Gen. 2:16, 17.
That is what they ignored! God had commanded them not to eat from this tree. They violated that clear command. They pushed aside God and his ways.
Later in human history 450 prophets of the god Baal assembled together with the man Elijah, who worshiped Jehovah. They took a young bull and placed it upon an altar. Then the Baal prophets called for fire from their god to consume this offering. Did he? The account relates this: “They kept calling upon the name of Baal from morning till noon, saying: ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and there was no one answering.” These prophets had sincerely believed Baal would answer them. In their desperation they did the following: “They began calling at the top of their voice and cutting themselves according to their custom with daggers and with lances, until they caused blood to flow out upon them. And it came about that, as soon as noon was past and they continued behaving as prophets until the going up of the grain offering, there was no voice, and there was no one answering, and there was no paying of attention.”—1 Ki. 18:25-29.
No answer! All their sincerity and zeal availed absolutely nothing! Baal did not answer because he could not. He was not a living god. Their sincerity in-worship did not please the living God Jehovah, for he had already condemned the practices these priests were performing. He was not pleased with their degraded form of worship, however sincere. The result? God approved of the slaughter of the entire lot of 450 Baal prophets. Were these Baal prophets sincere? Yes. Did they please God? No. They angered him. Why? Because they violated God’s clear statement of law regarding the worship of false gods: “You must not have any other gods against my face.”—Ex. 20:3.
No, sincerity alone will not please God. Repeatedly God has expressed his displeasure against those who violate his laws, however sincere they may be.
WHAT PLEASES GOD?
If sincerity alone does not please God, then what does? The first essential to pleasing God is to know him. We cannot please God if we do not know who he is, what his purposes are and what he wants from us.
It is like a person who wants an automobile driver’s license. He must acquaint himself with the traffic regulations of the country in which he lives. He may drive an automobile, provided he abides by those laws. If he breaks the laws connected with driving, then he must pay the corresponding penalty and may even lose his license. But one must learn about the rules before he can fulfill them. Without knowledge of those rules, violations would occur immediately, however sincere one may be in his driving efforts.
Where God is concerned we learn about him from his Word, the Bible. In this remarkable communication to the human family he tells us who he is, what his purposes are and what he wants from man. His Word tells us of his laws. To please God, we must keep those laws. If we violate them, then we displease God. “You well know that Jehovah your God is the true God, the faithful God, keeping covenant and loving-kindness in the case of those who love him and those who keep his commandments to a thousand generations, but repaying to his face the one who hates him by destroying him.” (Deut. 7:9-11) Hence, it is not a matter of mere sincerity in the way we choose to worship. What is vital is sincerity in adhering to the way God specifies we should worship.
The reasonableness of this can be seen when we examine the world in which we live. The crime, delinquency, disorder, hate, racial tension and general breakdown of morals is the direct result of disobeying God’s commandments. Do you consider the results pleasing? Of course not! However, where God’s laws are obeyed, then peace, harmony, love and high morality are the rule. This condition can be found today among dedicated worshipers of Jehovah God.
Even among dedicated Christians, however, the individual must not delude himself into thinking that by merely going through the motions he pleases God. Those who are dedicated to God must be whole-souled, obedient from the heart. They must keep his commandments. Their association with other Christians who have respect for all of God’s commandments is no assurance that they are individually pleasing God. They please him if they obey him. If they do not obey him, then their claims of sincerity and their association with other dedicated Christians will not suffice to please God.
God is not to be mocked. His purposes will stand. What he says he will accomplish, he will certainly do. When he commands humans to worship in a certain way, they should. Yes, sincerity coupled with the performance of God’s will is the way to please him. Sincerity alone, if it is not accompanied by the performance of God’s will, cannot please him.
When a person breaks civil laws, he incurs a penalty. By obeying those laws, he enjoys the benefits of the society that made them. When a person breaks God’s laws, he incurs a penalty. By obeying God’s laws, the benefits that come from God are enjoyed.
What is the penalty for violations of God’s laws in our time? Since we are living in the last days, near the end of this wicked system of things, the statement of the psalmist takes on added significance: “But the transgressors themselves will certainly be annihilated together.” (Ps. 37:38) Violators of God’s laws, even though sincere, will be cut off in death at this system’s end.
What are the benefits for those who sincerely obey God’s commandments? Psalm 37:27 promises: “Turn away from what is bad and do what is good, and so reside to time indefinite.” Lovers of what God considers good will live through the end of this system into a new system of things where the earth will be brought back to a paradise condition. There they will indeed “reside to time indefinite” and enjoy the delights of this beautiful earth. Psalm 37:29 helps us to understand how long this “time indefinite” will be for lovers of what is right when it says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
Peace and perfect life in a restored paradise will be the lot of those who love God and sincerely follow his ways. Life in that paradise will fulfill all their righteous desires, for of God’s promises the psalmist said: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—Ps. 145:16.
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:21-23.