A Good Thing to Hate
My generation absolutely loves authenticity. So much. We hate anything that feels fake, superficial, or phony. We love authenticity almost to the point that if we feel a hint of cheesiness or fakeness, we dismiss it immediately. We think “if it feels fake, it’s probably wrong."
Jesus would support a lot of this thinking. He calls out the Pharisees for caring more about appearances than the heart (Matthew 23:25-28). But what we probably don’t realize is where loving authenticity can go wrong.
Where Authenticity Goes Wrong
Slothfulness in the Bible is sort of a synonym for laziness (Proverbs 6:6-11, 12:24, 13:4, 19:15, 19:24, 24:30-34, 26:14-15; Ecclesiastes 10:18; etc.). It's when we simply don't care about how things are done or doing them well. I think a lot of times we wander into slothfulness in the name of being authentic.
But slothfulness is not the same thing as authenticity.
- Authenticity says “it’s not the end of the world if we mess up.” Slothfulness says “I don’t even care if we mess up." (Philippians 3:12-14)
- Authenticity says “substance matters more than style.” Slothfulness says “style doesn’t matter at all."
- Authenticity says “I can be honest about my weaknesses.” Slothfulness says “people better learn to deal with my weaknesses because I refuse to grow in them." (1 John 1:5-10)
In our relationship with Jesus:
- Authenticity says “my identity isn't in how often I read the Bible.” Slothfulness says “reading my Bible doesn’t matter at all." (John 15:7)
- Authenticity says "it's okay to not be okay." Slothfulness says "I have no interest in ever trying to be okay, because not being okay is easier." (Ephesians 4:20-24; 1 Peter 2:16)
- Authenticity says "even my weak prayer life is acceptable to God through Jesus." Slothfulness says "I will not put in effort to improve my prayer life."
Glorious, Authentic Non-Slothfulness
I love how Paul talks about authenticity and slothfulness. In Romans 12, he mentions both in the same breath:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Romans 12:9-11 ESV
What’s interesting is that in the same passage, Paul instructs us to love genuinely (or authentically), but also that we aren’t to be slothful in zeal, but instead fervent (passionate) in spirit as we serve. So there is a way to continue to be authentic without being slothful. We want to aim for authenticity in how we serve, but never for slothfulness.
Our world needs Christians that do things passionately and authentically. Professionally and genuinely. Fervently and truthfully. The gospel enables us to do both. Because Jesus gives us his righteousness, we have no need to act like someone we're not. And because the Spirit indwells us, we have no reason to stay stuck where we are. Through the cross, Jesus invites us to live a life of glorious, authentic, non-slothfulness.