Through John in the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the church in Laodicea. He speaks of the material riches of the people of that church saying that they consider themselves to be rich, but instead they are poor. Jesus says that they are wretched, pitiful, blind, and naked. They think that they are great because of their wealth, but their material wealth has blinded them to their spiritual poverty.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.Revelation 3:15-18
I’m really reminded of our society today, whether it be in America where I am from, or in Italy where I am currently living. Both within and outside of the church, I have seen these same attitudes and it makes me wonder what Jesus would say to us if he were to write the book of Revelation and list us in what is being written.
But in this case, let’s focus on the church because Jesus isn’t addressing the society at large. He is speaking directly to the church. He says that they are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold. They are like food that has sat out all day and simply taken on the temperature of the room.
In the same way, the church has allowed the systems and thoughts of the world come in and affect its temperature. We are no longer on fire for Christ, but instead distracted by all of the “important” things around us. Our business. Our hobbies. Even our security and family. Sure, these are important things that we should be paying attention to, but they also provide entrance to the world and distract us from what is truly the most important thing: Christ and living for him.
If we will do that, we can come to him to ask for gold. We can ask for white clothes. And we can ask to be able to see. And Jesus will give us all of these. They aren’t material goods, and they certainly aren’t material wealth, but they do give us life eternally, and as Jesus says, it is life abundantly.
In fact, this reminds me of a parable that Jesus told. In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke of the four different types of soil where the farmer had scattered seed. In particular, I want to focus on the third soil. Jesus said that this seed produced a plant but as it grew, thistles and thorns grew up around it, crowding out the plant. Jesus went on to explain that these these thistles and thorns are the cares of the world. Just as the Laodiceans were concerned about, and depending upon, their material wealth, the people referred to in Jesus’s parable were the ones whose faith was crowded out by the cares of the world.
So we have a huge risk and what Jesus is saying to the church should also be a great caution to us. Our risk is that we also would be caught up in the cares of the world. We risk that we also would be materially rich but spiritually wretched and poor. And we need to guard against this at all times. We need to understand that this risk is a threat to our faith and guard against it, not allowing these attitudes into the church, nor into our hearts so that we will not become lukewarm and be spit out.