How to Pass the Test
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:Revelation 3:14-22 NIV
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 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.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 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.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The natural water supply in Laodicea was neither hot, like the springs of Hieropolis to its north, nor cold, like the springs of nearby Colosse, but rather it was a tepid and lazy stream. The church in Laodicea was wealthy, but spiritually it was like its water supply: lukewarm, because the people didn’t feel they needed God. In the eyes of God, Laodicea had been tested and found wanting. Christian financial planner, author and CEO Ron Blue relates how money can test our faith.
“Money may also serve as a test – financially, practically, and spiritually. The writer of Proverbs grasped the significance of this truth when he wrote, ‘[Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God]’ (Pr 30:8-9). Thomas Carlyle, the British historian and essayist, said, ‘Adversity is hard on a man, but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. Prosperity is a test that most people cannot pass.’”
The church at Laodicea is a case in point. Founded in 250 B.C., Laodicea became famous for its fertile fields, beauty, and wealth. The city served as a center for banking and finance, even minting its own coins. By the latter part of the first century, when the book of Revelation was written, the Laodicean church had apparently grown accustomed to this affluence, putting material wealth ahead of spiritual needs! The Laodiceans allowed wealth to replace faith, and thus failed the test of prosperity.
Today, our faith faces a practical test each year when it comes to filing our tax returns!
When you look at your tax return, it’s easy to gauge your spiritual perspective. For example, how much you spend on interest compared to how much you give says a lot about what you believe. You get a tax deduction for the interest as well as the charitable contributions – but only the interest deduction points to a lifestyle funded by debt. Look at your deductions. Do you take a greater deduction for interest on debt than you do for your charitable giving?
Ethicist and religion scholar Allen Verhey gives the antidote for a Laodicean mind-set.
“A person’s life – or a community’s life – does not consist in the abundance of possessions, and it cannot be secured by accommodating the claims of Domitian [the emperor] and so living comfortably. A person’s life consists rather in celebrating the enthronement of the Lamb who was slain. Such a celebration frees the Christian person and community from conventional standards of prosperity and power, frees them not to be anxious and to be generous, and frees them to dream – at least – of a good future where justice dwells.”