"…that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,…"
The story is told that during a political debate an opponent of President Lincoln accused him of being two-faced and duplicitous. The crowd waited for a response. Lincoln in forming an answer was well aware that he was no oil painting when it came to his physical features. In fact, some of his enemies had called him the original gorilla. In a moment of great homeliness, humility, and humor President Lincoln replied to his accuser, "Honestly, if I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one?" The crowd laughed, and Lincoln's opponent was silenced!
Being two-faced is something the Bible frowns upon and God hates. God wants us to wear one face; He wants our lives to be marked by honesty, integrity, and transparency. God does not want us to be doubled-minded, or to be two-faced. He wants our prayers to be without hypocrisy (Matt. 6:5-6), our love to be unfeigned (1 Peter 1:22), our words to be true (Prov. 4:23-24), and our actions to be pure in motive (Matt. 15:8). This idea of God wanting us to be sincere is so much the case that He would rather have us honest about our wrong doing than trying to look right. The Bible warns that trying to look right without being right is to make a liar out of oneself, and God (1 John 1:8-10). The wisdom of Proverbs reminds us that what we cover God will uncover, but what we uncover God will cover (Prov. 28:13). The truth is that hidden sin is always an open scandal in heaven. God sees us wherever we are (Gen. 16:13)! And God sees into us whoever we are (John 1:47-48; 2:23-25)! Nothing can be hidden from God, and the future will prove that (1 Cor. 4:4-5; Heb. 4:13).
That is why we need to make Paul's prayer for the Philippians a priority and urgent prayer (Phil. 1:9-11). With the soon return of Christ in mind, entailing an uncovering of Christ before the world and an uncovering of the believer before heaven, Paul prays that the Christians at Philippi will be sincere until that moment. He wants their lives to be without the wax of hypocrisy. I use those words purposefully because the word for "sincere" is a Greek term that means to be "tested by sunlight." The picture behind the word is that of a shopper in ancient times taking a piece of pottery and holding it up to the sunlight to see if cracks in the pottery had been filled in with wax. In the process of manufacturing, some pots cracked in the oven, and so rather than throw the pottery away, some merchants covered the cracks with a hard pearly wax that blended in with the piece of pottery. The unsuspecting shopper would fall fowl of this unless they held the piece of pottery up to the sunlight exposing its defects. Because of this notorious practice, honest merchants often marked their more expensive and finer products with the caption sine cera – "without wax."
Paul's prayer is a reminder to them and to us that we need to be sincere in our dealings with each other, and God. There is no expectation of perfection, we are all flawed, but we must not compound our many sins with the further sin of hypocrisy and insincerity. Artificial love, worship, and service are as worthless as a piece of broken pottery.