The church Jesus addressed here was lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, not interested in devotion to Christ but not willing to leave behind the identity of being his. But Paul warned, the Lord knows those who are his and let those who name the name of the Lord depart from iniquity (2Timothy 2:19).
The church taught things were going on well because of its material possession, blinded by the physical from seeing the spiritual. It compares his beautiful church building with others and gave itself pass mark, it compared the airplane it has with what others have or do not have and decided he was doing well.
It is clear that wealth can blind. It is easy to move into the love of money without knowing it. When money becomes your life that is a dangerous place to be. Jesus warned against thinking that our lives consist of the abundance of things we possess (Luke 12:15).
To be wretched is to be under a heavy burden, to be enslaved, to fall into a pit without anyone to rescue, something broken down in need of urgent repair. That is a dire situation.
In the focus verse, Jesus gave that diagnosis to a church. The point is: being a church does not automatically convey perfection on us. There is need to fight against the spirit of lukewarmness cum covetousness which has affected the church in Laodicea and to whom this letter was written.
Lukewarmness causes us to have a higher view of ourselves than we ought, which Paul said that we should not. He said we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to because God has given us a measure (with limits) of faith (Romans 12:1-5). We should think soberly, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, who will lift us up in due season.
The one who is rich should not regard himself as something because of that, but that he has a means of laying treasures in heaven, as God has given him the opportunity (1Timothy 6:17-19).
The Laodecian church measure spirituality with material possession, which is wrong. James rebuked a church for giving special seat for the rich, saying that a wrong order is being established (James 2:1-5).
To be wretched means to not be well-clothed. But Jesus says he has his cloth to give us, the cloth of his righteousness (2Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus told a story of a man who came to a feast, did not come with the right cloth and was chased out. The only righteousness that meets the mark of heaven is the righteousness of Jesus, God called our own righteousness filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), clothes of wretchedness.
This means to be pitied as opposed to being envied. Some people pursue material things so that they can be respected. It is like being rich in the bank but not being rich towards God (Luke 12:13-31). Real spiritual riches is about our relationship with God.
Jesus warned a group of people to beware of covetousness. Similarly, he warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisee which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).
The hypocritical are miserable and they do not know it. They think that God is man or there is no God who can know what was hidden under their cloak of darkness. They are miserable because they have not overcome sin but are overcome by it (Romans 6:16), worse still, they will not own up that they needy and so remain miserable.
Jesus, when he said that we should beware of covetousness, he meant that even if today, we are not covetous we would not be covetous tomorrow, just as because we are not hypocrites today does not means we would not be hypocrites tomorrow.
That is a call to be constantly on guard because money can be transformed to Mammon. And Jesus says that we cannot serve Mammon and God. For the broken-hearted Jesus comes with the balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22), and for the spirit of heaviness, he comes with the garment of praise.
That means to have a lack of materials. But the church in Laodicea did not have a problem with material possession. It was more than that. The money was not just something to have but something that has them. And a slave in the real sense, have nothing, so they are poor though they thought they are rich. They were living in an illusion, in a fool’s paradise.
A rich young ruler came to Jesus expressing a desire to the will of God (Luke 18:18-25), but when push came to shove, he refused to follow Jesus all the way because he was tied to his possession and he refused to be loosed.
That was the basis of his identity in his locality, as a respectable man. For him, what Jesus demanded was too radical, total devotion to him. He loved his miserable life too much to leave it for a lifetime of following Jesus.
True riches comes with the heart of generosity. The greatest riches is a heart of love, which is the right motivation. Paul said whatever you have is nothing much without love. Without love everything else is just emptiness, miserableness (1Corinthians 13).
Jesus was full of love and that was what he communicated to the people. They felt his compassion, and the bible says that he is the one who is the manifestation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3), who is love (1John 4:8). Being with Jesus, we get covered with his love and manifest the same.
They thought that when it comes to vision, they have it all together. But they did not know that there is a higher kind of seeing, which is spiritual sight and to not have it is to be truly blind.
Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that they will have the spirit of wisdom and revelation, that the eyes of their eyes will be enlightened, to know things (Ephesians 1:15-18).
You know things by seeing them, you become aware of them, but to just be aware of what is in front of you is not the definition of faith.
The bible says that we shall not live by sight but by faith (2Corinthians 5:7). That means faith is a different kind of seeing, in which we see the word of God as more real that the evidence around. The bible says that with faith we understand that that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Though we were not there when it happened our faith bridges time and space, and we “see,” recognise the truth that God is creator. We see God creating the world with the eyes of faith even though we were not there. Faith, i.e. spiritual sight that we should have comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).