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The Poverty of Wealth

A recent study showed that people can tell whether you are rich or poor simply by looking at your face. According to psychologist Thora Bjornsdottir, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, even expressionless faces give off hidden signals about social class. According to today’s passage, it is also possible to deceive yourself into thinking that you are better off than you really are. True riches are not a matter of money.

The city of Laodicea was located in the Lycus Valley, ten miles west of the city of Colossae and forty miles south of the city of Philadelphia. It was a wealthy city, famous for eye medicine and wool, and when devastated by the great earthquake of A.D. 17, they didn’t even need government help to rebuild.

The church was also economically prosperous, which had produced an attitude of self-sufficiency and complacency. The believers of Laodicea were doing well financially but languishing spiritually. Like the city’s water system, which was tepid and tainted with lime deposits, Laodicea’s Christianity left a bad taste. Jesus described their spiritual condition as “neither hot or cold” (v. 16).

In a world opposed to God, the gospel cannot help but create sharp lines of separation. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth,” Jesus warned His disciples. “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). The church in Laodicea seems to have attempted neutrality. Reluctant to appear either for or against Jesus and unwilling to rock the boat, they curried favor with the culture in a way that alienated them from the Christ they claimed to serve. These were real Christians who were living false lives. Used to fending for themselves, they failed to grasp their own spiritual poverty (vv. 17–18).

Apply the Word

In a wealthy culture that preaches self-help and self-reliance, we can forget we need Jesus. More than our savings accounts and retirement plans, more than our friends and social networks, more than political power and economic security—we need Jesus. Confess your complacency, and cling to Jesus for His promise of true wealth and security.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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