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. 18 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. (Revelation 3:17-18)
There are many churches like the ancient church at Laodicea that consider themselves to be “rich” even though they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” There are many self-confident churches today that have these characteristics. Here’s how to recognize them:
Wretched: The people in this church think are characterized by an abominable attitude. They may think that they are friendly and outgoing, but the only thing that they are skilled at is flattery and conceit. Let’s be honest: we are all tempted to be like this sometimes, but true Christians can harness the power of the Holy Spirit to resist this urge.
Pitiful: Instead of being role models, sometimes church goers lack real purpose or strength of belief, and are secretly, or not-so-secretly, wallowing in despair and unbelief.
Poor: Sometimes we think we are rich either in terms of earthly money, or spiritual gifts, when actually we are spiritually destitute. Personal popularity or wealth is not the same thing as being gifted by God. True gifts are accompanied by humility, since their purpose is to bring glory to God, not man.
Blind: Much that is called wisdom is foolishness, and many who say “I see” know nothing at all (John 9:41). Many people are blind and yet keep walking at a rapid pace with confidence, because they do not realize that they cannot see. Such people are destined for an accident.
Naked: In spiritual terms, nakedness often refers to the condition of having sins that have not been atoned for. In the case of the church at Laodicea it might simply mean sins that were not recognized as such, and therefore not confessed or repented of. I am not sure whether or not this means that there were a lot of unsaved congregants at Laodicea, but that is definately a possibility. There was definately a great need of repentance at this church, even though they thought they were doing pretty good.
This description of this church should terrify us. They were horribly destitute spiritually, and yet did not realize it. We are all like this sometimes. However, we can depend on Christ to remedy the situation. He will do the following things to those who repent and trust in Him:
He will give us gold refined in fire to make us rich. This gold, which can only be given to true believers, are truly good deeds that reflect genuine love and sacrifice, for which we will be eternally rewarded (Ephesians 2:10, I Corinthians 3:14).
Jesus will give us white clothes to wear, so that we can cover our shameful nakedness. This means that He will cover our sins so that we are not judged for them. Only the blood of Jesus Himself, the Lamb of God, is sufficient to cover our spiritual nakedness.
Finally, He offers us salve to put on our eyes, so we can see. We can see nothing by ourselves, because our eyes are horribly infected by sin and selfishness and thereby swollen shut. But Jesus can heal our eyes so that even people of so-called lower intelligence can see the truth clearly.