Spiritual Poverty

Laurie Buffo, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | February 19, 2024

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 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. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Revelation 3:16–19

What is the first saying about money that comes into your mind? For me it is, “Money can’t buy happiness.” I agree, but I do not always live like it. I see the truth in Milton Berle’s version, “Money can’t buy you happiness; it just helps you look for it in more places.” As today’s passage points out, we can clothe ourselves with the latest fashions but still be spiritually naked. We can feel successful but be pitiful because we pursue things with no eternal value. We can say we trust Jesus but be blind to the ways we shut him out and instead rely on ourselves.

In 2 Corinthians 6:10, Paul says he and his fellow ministers are “poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” Their attitude contrasts with the spiritual poverty of the Church at Laodicea in today’s passage. Paul and his companions enriched people with the gospel, forsaking material comfort for the everlasting treasure of the kingdom of God. 

Jesus loved the church at Laodicea enough to call them out. Likewise, when we are on the wrong path, He lets us know so we can experience a truly abundant life. Does this mean we need to give away everything and become missionaries? Although God calls some to that life, often simply recognizing our need for Jesus is enough. We can know deep in our souls we have nothing of value without Him. In the moments we do this, we have the kind of peace and security that can never be taken away.

When faith fires us up, and we are no longer lukewarm, we have the right mindset for generosity. I vividly recall the first time my husband and I gave an amount that made us squirm. It was during one of the earliest Celebrations of Hope at Willow. I found stepping out in faith to be both frightening and exhilarating. It opened the door to new ways of thinking about money. Once you try adventurous giving, generosity comes more easily. I am still lukewarm more often than I would like. However, I can change my mindset more easily now, knowing the true joy of giving.

Next Steps

How often do you feel stressed out about money? Make a note of times you felt that way recently. Next, think about the countercultural nature of 2 Corinthians 6:3–10. How does it contrast with our tendency to pursue safety? Can you imagine having nothing financially yet still possessing everything of value through faith? It can be difficult, but try reframing your recent money worries with this eternal perspective.