The church at Laodicea was described by Jesus as being, among other things, poor (Revelation 3:14 - 22). Based on historical evidence, this church was anything but. Laodicea, according to Britannica.com, was the ancient name given to several cities in western Asia. The cities in Laodicea were used as commercial centers along trade routes, as well as military strongholds. These two facts strongly indicate that Laodicea was a wealthy region.
On the other hand, the church at Smyrna, although known for its poverty, was affirmed by Jesus as being rich (Revelation 2:9). This is a reminder that God's definitions often contradict our perspectives. In this case, it appears there are elements God uses to define wealth that are not used on Wall Street.
1 Timothy 6:6 spells it out clearly - "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Jesus alluded to this when He shared the story of the rich man in Luke, chapter 12. He concluded that, although the man had more than enough material possessions, he was poor towards God.
Spiritual wealth can be measured in two ways:
The rich man in Luke 12:13-21 failed in good works. When his farm produced an unexpectedly great harvest, he opted to store it all for himself.
His unusual increase was an opportunity to share what he had, and no doubt with the poor. Instead, he chose to build bigger barns to contain all he would reap. He also took comfort in how well-off he should be in the years to come. Though he had an abundance of goods, he was not rich in good works.
James 2:5 shares how God has chosen the poor of this world as rich in faith. God looks beyond physical wealth and uses faith as a measurement of riches.
This faith refers to believing in God alone, rather than trusting in our riches (1 Timothy 6:17). It also speaks to the faith of Jesus which allows us to be identified with Him.
If the rich man of Luke 12 had been rich in faith as well, he would have been ready to depart this life at any time. Instead, God chided him for not having eternity in his thoughts and for not having his soul in a state of preparedness for the inevitable - death.
Moses was praised for "esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (Hebrews 11:26). That means the lowest possible physical condition in Christ is still far superior to the wealth of the world's billionaires minus God.
Jesus taught his disciples that it is hard for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:24). On the flip side, we have also seen that there is a way to be rich that pleases God. This happens through good works and faith. Where do you reside?
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