The Ravages of Riches

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Man sleeping in bed

In America we are well to do. It may not feel that way to you, and you would probably be right. You might even be struggling right now. I’m not challenging that. But I’m not really talking about social class or income level when I say that. What I’m talking about is “by comparison.” You compare too. You would be talking about yourself compared to Warren Buffett. See, that’s an American comparison. Of course, by those standards you and I, and most all of us pooling our resources together, would be dirt poor. What I mean is another, different comparison: us to the Savior.

By His own admission, He had not the pillow to lay His wearied, blessed head. Even the foxes and birds possessed more than He. Compared to Him, and compared to His first followers, we are all filthy rich. To see this, you need not look any farther than to your things.

I’ll start with that which I have already mentioned: pillows. At the current time, we have this particular television commercial looping about our brains with annoyingly continuous play. It is for something called “MyPillow.” Here are some of the claims from its web site. It is “guaranteed” to be “the most comfortable pillow you’ll ever own.” Italics theirs, actually. They say that it is “the official pillow of the National Sleep Foundation.” They woke up just enough to claim a favorite pillow, then they went back to sleep again. Those kooky folks down at the NSF. Their pillows have helped people to get a good night sleep who suffer from “insomnia, migraines, allergies, RLS (whatever that is), fibromyalgia, and sleep apnea.” Wow! That’s some work there. See? Jesus had no pillow and we have – “for a limited time at these crazy prices” – “MyPillow.”

Stuff. We all got it. Piles and rooms full. Even at the lowest, poorest Ghetto parts of the economic spectrum, usually you will find the ownership, or access to, a television, a car, some fairly regular income (including the ill-gotten gains of some), a drawer full of clothes, flush toilets, and refrigeration. Take those last two, “refrigeration” and “flush toilets.” Two hundred years ago, the royal family didn’t have them. Television wasn’t even invented. Two hundred years ago – 1815 – radio was still nearly one hundred years off. Even electricity in our homes to power such stuff was a dream 75 years away. Now, we all have electricity everywhere – the wall or Eveready kind – at the flick of a finger. All of this has come about within mostly the second half of those 200 years. In civilization time, 200 years is like “yesterday noon.”

We all have loads and loads of stuff. For some, it may have been purchased from Macy’s. For others, it came from Goodwill, but still, it’s there.

The love of money is the love of stuff. Money buys stuff. That’s all money is good for, really, stuff buying. It’s a poor insulator. You can’t eat money. Can’t drive it. But you can use it to buy something that you can eat or drive. More money, more stuff.

There is a place in modern day Turkey. It is called Eski Hissar. It used to be called, in New Testament times, Laodicea: the City of Stuff. It was one of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. In fact, it was named after the wife of Antiochus II, Laodike. Believe you me, Antiochus wives could pack palaces out with stuff. Their shoe closets alone could choke a horse.

The city was very well to do. With an ancient medical center, a thriving eye salve business, the agricultural production of its much desired and unusual fine black wool, and banks, it was a fine hub for Roman industry.

In the year 60 AD, the city was devastated by an earthquake, nearly destroyed. Laodicea was so wealthy, its citizens refused the financial aid of Rome. They rapidly rebuilt on their own. Since this occurrence took place a mere 30 years before John wrote Revelation, it is possible that he was referring to it in Rev. 3:17 when he says that they had become wealthy “and have need of nothing.”

Today, not many live there. Mostly, it is a place of ruins. Two Roman theaters, a stadium, a colonnade, the aqueduct, a large necropolis, and the crumbled remains of three early Christian churches may all be visited. Yes, even the archaeological ruin of churches. I guess they did not listen to the warning given to them. It is recorded in Revelation 3:17 and 18:

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

What did that spiritual blindness lead to? A lukewarmness (v. 16) that Christ despised. He literally could not stomach it. He threatened to “spew you out.”

“Such words. What a harsh God.”

No. Verse 19 says quite the opposite: “as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” His advice? “Therefore, be zealous and repent.”

Stuff, even the Goodwill, Salvation Army variety, can get in the way. In fact, it will unless you do something about it. God doesn’t hate pillows. He doesn’t even hate the much lauded “MyPillow.” What he hates is the love of such, maybe even the service to it. We go too far in our comfort search. We make zones out of it. Impenetrable fortresses, more like it. Soon, God, and His CZ (comfort zone) busting ways, is on the outs with us, spiritually, at least.

Is this you? Has America made you soft? Are there shows that you never miss (DVR, baby), and church services that you do often miss? Do you struggle with the books of the Bible, but can rattle off jingle after jingle from the 80s and 90s? Do you work two jobs for the establishment of the temporal kingdom and barely lift a finger for the eternal one. If so, you have been wooed off the Way , brethren. The jingles worked. You have been successfully detoured, and maybe not a little.

What to do?

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Realize the problem. Reopen yourself to Christ. Wake from your sound, restful spiritual sleep. Get off your soft pillow and down onto your hard knees. Ask God for forgiveness.

Then you must do what verse 21 suggests simply. You must “overcome.” Surely you have more resolve than a pillow company. Some may have to radically shrink what they own. Do it. Get rid of some of it. Throw it overboard and control the rest.

Overcoming is mastering – you controlling it. Keep going until you feel God back in control of your life. Keep going tell you feel yourself lean. Don’t stop until God’s will is habitually being accomplished in your life, and in the lives of those near and dear to you. Don’t even stop then. Keep right on going. Why not? It’s the right direction. Build a few fortresses yourself. You spew out a little, or He will.

Verse 22 ends with: “He who has an ear, let him hear.”

Did you?

About William Cole

I am an all-the-time pastor, a part-time hospice chaplain, and a sometimes author. The church is eight miles out in the country from Marshall, MI. The hospice work is with Oaklawn Hospice, where I am Spiritual Care Coordinator. It's right in the town of Marshall. The writing I do to relax. I am elatedly married to my wife, April, and am a proud father to two fine young ladies, Ashley and Maty, not to mention my delightful exchange student daughter, Jessica.
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