Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why Material Wealth Should Never Substitute Faith

Christ warns the Church of Laodicea that they are tepid in their faith, and this tepidity nauseates him to the point of vomiting them out. Because they are rich in material wealth (17), they have a false sense of independence and slough off God’s grace. What this community doesn’t realize, however, is that despite their pride-filled wealth, they are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (17) in what really matters. Jesus offers them his grace, “gold refined by fire” (18), but they must repent and be earnest about serving him instead of putting material wealth above God.

Then, the sacred author gives us the beautiful, inviting image of Christ knocking at the door (20). But the onus is on the one receiving the knock, in this case Laodicea. Jesus will not break down the door, but he will enter upon invitation: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (20).

When our lives are going well and we are financially secure, when we have all of the toys modern culture offers, we are tempted to forget our faith in God. Our arrogance might ask: Why would we, who are rich in all of the world’s possessions, need God? The sacred writer implies the same question upon the Laodiceans who have a lucrative export business in eye balm. Whether it is a church 2000 years ago or us today, the supplanting of faith in God with material comfort is a common form of spiritual blindness. Jesus tells the sacred author to write that we are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (17) and in need of his grace and mercy, no matter our material wealth. Our true riches are found in the selfless love, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. When it comes to eternity, the materially rich and poor are the same. We are to live this life devoted to God, never forgetting that our material wealth is a gift from God. And we are to invite Jesus into our abode so that life on this earth is not a nauseating lukewarm faith but a faith radiating the burning flame of Christ's love. Amen.