Monday, March 26, 2012

Closing out Lenten - 2 weeks to go: Thoughts on false poverty

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."

I can not help but wondering if we are perhaps even more twisted than those who were the focus of Jesus' critique in the above passage in Revelation 3. The Laodicean church saw themselves as rich and without need. Christ saw them as spiritually destitute and at the edge of an eternal rejection: to be spewed out of His mouth. (Revelation 3:16)

In the United States, most of us live in relative riches compared to much of the world. Even those of us in poverty are doing better than a majority of the world. Yet, as a common crunch comes upon the middle class of America, driving it downwards, even those of us who are doing well are feeling the downward spiral, and are panicking. Still we remain the rich of this world. Could it be that we who are rich in comparison to the rest of the world are beginning to see ourselves as poor, and through our sense of poverty claiming ourselves to be spiritually rich?

The Laodiceans knew they were rich and attached that richness to their spirituality. Could it be that we think we are poor, when we are really rich, and that we are attaching our false sense of poverty to the belief that our poverty makes us spiritually rich? Are we actually one more step removed from spiritual richness than even the Laodiceans were?

Let us finish the days of Lent with a proper sense of our place in the world: Most of us in America and Western Europe are economically rich compared to much of the world, and most of history. Yet, we see ourselves as poor, because commercialism has sold us a silly picture of success based upon the greed of a 2 year old who hasn't grown out of the "mine" season of life.

Do we know that we are rich? Or do we pretend we are not? Do we assume that God has a special place in His heart for us because we have falsely assumed that we are "poor?"

As we all know, God does have a place in His heart for the poor. Let us evaluate ourselves properly. Let us not press close to the gates of the poor if we do not belong there, but make a place for those who really do belong there.

Perhaps our true place is that we are liars, who like Ananias and Sapphira pretend we are poor. Perhaps our true place is that we are Laodicaens who are rich in pocket, and poor in spirit. Perhaps we are like Solomon whose wisdom in this world brought him a most disastrous idolatrous condition.

This is Lent. It is the season of our introspection. We are found in our enemies, and in the greatest failures of the faith.