The Self Ignorance of the Laodiceans
Revelation 3:17-18
Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable…

The secret of lukewarmness is disclosed in these words, "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." Shall we find fault with the words in themselves? Might they not be taken as an expression of gratitude? Might they not mean, "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage"? Now I would not deny that this may have been meant by the Laodiceans as the language of very exalted piety. Possibly, too, their neighbours might admit the claim, and regard them with admiration. But when we look closely into the words, two unpleasant things appear. First, here is no recognition of the Lord and His goodness; no lowly and grateful ascribing of all to His undeserved lovingkindness and bounty. If the Laodiceans had felt themselves debtors, they would at least have said, "By the grace of God I am what I am" — "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name be the glory." This second thing, too, becomes apparent, in examining the words, that they are a boast; a glorying in self, and not in the Lord; a quiet claim of superiority over other Churches; like the words of the Pharisee, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are." Their wretched and pitiable condition is presented to themselves in three aspects: as poverty, blindness, and nakedness. What a combination of ills! If you find a fellow-man in this plight, how you commiserate him. Each evil more than doubles the other. And then add inevitable nakedness — with its shamefulness and discomforts — and how woeful the condition! Well, here is a Church of Christ in that pitiable condition. There is material wealth, growing numbers, name and repute in society, many showy and coveted virtues that attract attention and admiration. But look for the faith, the love, the joy, the peace, the hope, the meekness, the piety, the holy zeal, the beneficence, the martyr-spirit, the self-forgetfulness and self-denial, in which the true wealth of a Church consists, and she has nothing. Inquire how much of heaven there is within her borders — how much of the power and joy of the Holy Ghost-and you discover that in the real, true sense she is bankrupt. This Church is "blind" as well as poor — blind in the eye that sees God. They said, "We see," and believed it. But enter the region of spiritual truths and realities — bring up the doctrines of the gospel and the hidden wisdom, comparing spiritual things with spiritual — they are foolishness to the Laodiceans, neither can they know them, because they are spiritually discerned. If spiritual poverty in a Christian Church is sinful, so also is blindness. It is not misfortune, but fault. It need not be. The Saviour was anointed with the Holy Spirit that He might give sight to the blind, and He has lost none of His skill. One thing more characterises this Laodicean Church: instead of the rich and glorious adorning of thy fancy, "thou art naked." Grace clothes the happy soul with the garment of salvation, and covers it with the robe of righteousness, so that we appear with acceptance in the presence of the majesty of heaven and earth; but Laodicea in its pride is naked as a beggar. And saddest of all, "thou knowest it not": it is hidden from thine eyes. Could aught be more deplorable?

(J. Culross, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: Because you say, 'I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;' and don't know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;

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