June 4th, 2007



For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

—Jesus (Revelation 3:17)

For those of us living in relative affluence, this can easily be true. For what do we see the people of the Bible depending on God?:
  • Weather? Much of the need to depend on God for this is related to food or shelter, so see below. When there's bad weather, we may have trouble driving. When there's really bad, disaster-level weather, we may ask about global warming or social justice.
  • Food? We can simply drive or walk to multiple grocery stores with near-infinite aisles full of near-infinite choices from across the globe. Many of us wouldn't even know how to use much of the food we see stocked in abundance. Stores are rarely out of anything, and if they are, we feel we have every right to be angry about it. From that perspective, it seems downright silly that Biblical people struggled with all the stuff about sacrifices, unclean animals, and eating food sacrificed to idols.
  • Shelter? Home ownership is considered a right, even though banks actually own most of our homes (remember in Monopoly when a mortgage was a bad thing?). When home prices are out of our loan range, we say it's too expensive to live there (the truth is, we're often rich enough to do so—we just can't have the ownership myth, too).
  • Enemies? Our wars are either over commodities we're unwilling to cut back on (though we may well blame our leaders for not effectively giving us a reason we can feel better about) or considered a side effect of not fully understanding each other. By and large, danger never comes to our doorstep, and we never consider ourselves people who hate or are hated, because that's just rude.
  • Fertility? That's science. When it's not working, doctors can help, and when we struggle with fertility, that's often a very private (though very painful) affair. Even so, a quick look around the drugstore shows that we've spent at least as much time and energy combating fertility as we have seeking it.
  • Justice? Sure, we're cynical. And we're often cynical about the government and the system, because that's where we look for justice now. And most of us have the luxury of being cynical without disrupting our daily lives in any real way. It's just another conversation topic.
  • Money? Many of us can either not bother making a budget or make a hobby of money itself, complete with talk shows and seminars. When it's tight, there's credit, baby.
These are broad strokes hastily written, but even to nitpick them is often a privilege couched in our affluence. The point is, our culture has given us the (desired) illusion that we don't need God because all of the God-sized tasks are covered. Faith is just about meaning and community, pretty high-order items on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Thus, it's not even that important what we believe, because it's all just icing on the cake. Finding a nice hobby and a good slice of community service seems just as effective and a lot less demanding.

Jesus calls out our true state in His words to the church in Laodicea, whom He threatens to spit out because of their lukewarmness. When we open our eyes (or rather, when He opens them), it's easy to see how easily our affluence can lead to an indifference toward God. Thankfully, the Master Physician offers a prescription for our healing, as well as an invitation to the greatest feast of all:
"'I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

—Revelation 3:18-22