Last week I reflected on what “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:15-16) might have meant in its historical context. We saw how Laodicea’s two neighbors were known for their water sources. Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs while Colossae was parked on the bank of the Lycus River. Laodicea however was not near any water source but had to pipe water from a long distance leaving the water dirty and lukewarm. Jesus compares their faith to their lukewarm water and says that because of that he is about to spit them out of his mouth. Isn’t that what we would all do if we had put dirty, tepid water in our mouths?
Jesus then goes on to say, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev 2:17). It seems to me that the main reason for their faith becoming lukewarm is because they have become self-reliant. The Christians in Laodicea had become rich causing them to not rely on God for his provisions. They did not feel like they need anything anymore from anyone, including God. They were completely content with their lives on this earth, what do they need God for?
Jesus recognizes that they feel rich and content but he points out the truth of their condition. He says that in reality they are not wealthy on course for a happy life, but instead, they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Jesus says this because the true measure of a person is not material wealth, health, and status, but it is faith in God that matters. If one lives their lives relying on their own abilities, resolve, and achievements gained on this earth, there is no room for faith. Being rich in faith is not about achievement but about trust in God. God doesn’t want people trusting in earthly riches and the comforts that they bring, he wants people to rely on him.