Revelation, material matters(part 4, chapter 3)

The bible has a lot to say about money and possessions and how we use those things. Many people believe that the practice of tithing is the only real obligation we have with what God has given us. However, there are hints to God’s real desire found in the Old Testament and given, much more explicitly, in the New. When the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years God fed them with manna, bread that would fall from the sky(or maybe just appear like dew? That’s how I’ve always pictured it, but I may be reading it wrong) in the early morning. The people were to depend on God to make it fall every morning except the sabbath, so on Friday they would have to collect double, but every other day they would only gather enough for a single day. It is here we see a clue to God’s intention for His people, “those who gathered much did not have too much and those who gathered little did not have too little”, meaning everybody shared. The New Testament is not short of examples of the same idea “sale all you have and give to the poor”. We, however, don’t usually get the message right away. These churches had struggles with material possessions just like we do, rather it be how we get them or whether we chose to count them as nothing for the sake of knowing Christ  or we pile them up so much we forget our need for God altogether. Sardis was a home for many trade guilds. Guilds that, in no small way, followed the religion of Rome: rather it be the gods they worship or the orgies in which they partake to honor them. The church in Sardis had compromised for the sake of prosperity and found a way to justify following after the guilds. They had also continued to do “church” so it is said that they looked alive, but were dead. However, there were some who did not follow after the guilds and Jesus has nothing against those ones. The church in Philadelphia had, just like the church in Smyrna, suffered persecution from those in the synagogue of Satan. They, too, had lost everything for the sake of the gospel. The deliverance they would receive from the hour to come is the same deliverance the church of Smyrna would receive. That is to say, death and martyrdom. Up to this point I have not tried to talk too much about the cultural and geographical significance within each letter. To be sure, every letter has a large element of that. However, I try to keep these posts short and sweet for the sake of a broader framework which will, inevitably, help the understanding of the fine points. It is necessary to give a good background for Laodicea though, for the entire discourse is explained by the geography. Laodicea, to say the least, was extremely rich. They had become wealthy through many facets. They became widely famous for their production of black wool and eye drops. They also had a very large banking system. It is no wonder the church had thought they were not in need of anything. However, their problem was similar to the same problem the city had, which Jesus explains by saying they are neither “hot nor cold, but lukewarm”. What does that mean though? Laodicea was in between two Springs, one hot the other cold. The hot was good for the muscle aches and pains, but undrinkable. The cold was great to drink, but didn’t have the healing effects of the hot. Laodicea, being in the middle, had water that was warm, polluted with the sulfur and other stuff that was in the hot so it would make you sick yet, too cool to really help anybody. The water was useless altogether. This is the heart of the matter, the church in its riches had forgotten it’s need for Christ and, in doing so, become entirely useless to the world and for their own salvation. How do you relate to stuff? Will you sacrifice your morals for the sake of “prosperity”? Have you gotten so rich you’ve lost sight of your need? Maybe you’ve lost everything for the sake of God and His kingdom. No matter the situation or state of our hearts, Jesus has words for us, “let him who has an ear to hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches”

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