We often think that life would be easier if we had no problems to face. The church in Laodicea bluntly contradicts this view. Of the seven churches to whom John wrote in Revelation 2 and 3, Laodicea is the only church not facing persecution or problems. The city was wealthy and there was much prosperity there at this time, but the fact remains that Jesus’s harshest words were reserved for this congregation, because they had succumbed to the lie that life consisted of an abundance of possessions and that spiritual zeal was just too much trouble.
Troubles and persecution can drive us into the arms of God; we wrestle, we plead, we seek His face for answers and help and find, as the psalmist did, that He is an ‘ever-present help in trouble.’ (Ps 46:1) Prosperity tends to keep us away from God. We become anaesthetised by our affluence (as Eugene Peterson put it) and lose any sense of God (or need of Him.) In his book ‘This Hallelujah Banquet’, he goes on to say, ‘Lukewarmness is the special fault of the successful. Those who have achieved or inherited are particularly prone to it. It is a basic threat to our church and our Christian faith in these times.’
Paul warned the Corinthians against complacency: ‘So if you think you’re standing firm, be careful you don’t fall!’ (1 Cor 10:12) The Laodiceans were oblivious to their true spiritual state. (Rev 3:15-16) May we understand the temptations associated with prosperity and live on earth so as to be laying up treasures in heaven. Paul said to Timothy, ‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’ (1 Tim 6:17-19) Such advice guards us against the dangers of prosperity and keeps us tethered to God.