Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rich according to whom?

The Church at Laodicea

Within the book of Revelation, the Apostle John writes seven distinct letters to seven churches in the first century of the founding of the universal church. While John addresses each church in general encouragement in looking forward to God's coming Kingdom, he also speaks to specific problems unique to each church.

One of these churches is the church in the Roman city of Laodicea. This body of believers probably receives one of the most scathing rebukes of all seven churches (Revelation 3:14-22). Our Lord through John's writing calls them "lukewarm." Christ's preference for this church was that they were either cold or hot, but since they are simply lukewarm, He wants nothing to do with them; He states that He will vomit them out of His mouth. How would you like that said of your church?

They Were Rich And Needed Nothing

A part of this lukewarm issue apparently revolved around money. The Lord gives this church the following rebuke:
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 (Revelation 3:17).
These Christians were wealthy and had no needs. They thought they were set for life. They didn't think they needed to rely on the Lord, but Jesus knew otherwise. He told them that they didn't realize that they were spiritually destitute. They needed more of Him.

The Invitation To Relationship Over Wealth

Near the end of this Letter to Laodicea, Jesus invites the believers at this church to turn from their sin revolving around wealth, to repent, and to resume a relationship with Him. As Christians, we're very familiar with the following verse that was originally written to this church:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).
Unfortunately, I think we have taken this verse out of its original context of a return for believers into a deeper relationship with the Lord and made it into a verse about salvation. I believe the real meaning behind this passage is that the Lord is telling this church that He desires a profound, intimate dependence on Him, but their wealth was getting in the way.

Comparing The American Church To Laodicea

You know, the American Church sounds a lot like the Laodicean Church. We're incredibly wealthy compared to the rest of the world. In our wealth, we have become incredibly self-reliant. We have our well-paying jobs, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and lines of credit. A dependence on God rarely enters into our mindset until something goes terribly wrong, such as a job loss, foreclosure, or mounting debt problems. We tend to put our financial lives into a box marked "Not Spiritual."

God wants everything. He wants our jobs, businesses, cash, credit, bank accounts, and retirement. He wants us to acknowledge that we need an intimate relationship with Him above everything else. We must put our wealth in God's perspective.

There Is Hope

In America's current economic state, I see hope on the horizon that a change in mindset is beginning to take place. More believers and more churches are turning to God's principles of Biblical finances. Through the efforts of such people and organizations as Crown Financial Ministries, Dave Ramsey, the Good $ense Ministry, and the numerous Christian Personal Finance Blogs now being published, I see a lot of Christians now moving toward God when it comes to money.

When money in America was flowing freely and credit was cheap, we had no need for God. We wanted to get our "spiritual fix" on Sundays and then act like the world when it came to money. Now that the tide has shifted in our economy, our churches and fellow believers are awakening to a new reality. God really does have something to say about money and our spiritual condition. There is a better way. We need to go deeper in our relationship with the Lord and rely on Him for wisdom and guidance. God is using a bad economy to knock on our heart's door and say to us, "Hey, American Church. You thought you were rich. You relied on your wealth. What you truly need is a more intimate relationship with Me."

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