Revelation 3:17-18 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and to not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich…”
Did you ever see The Family Man? Nicholas Cage plays Jack, a single, wealthy Wall Street Executive. He lives in an expensive apartment. He drives luxury sports cars. He wears pricey clothes. He believes he is living the dream life . On Christmas Eve he talks a would-be thief out of murdering the clerk at a convenience store. Outside the store the thief asks him if he is missing anything, and Jack tells him he has everything he needs.
It turns out the thief is some kind of angel in disguise. He gives Jack a months-long “glimpse” of the life he could have had if he had married his college sweetheart. It’s a middle-class existence without all the perks of wealth, but it is filled with the love of family and friends. Over time he learns what he has been missing. He comes to see the misery in his lonely, unfulfilled life as the wealthy executive.
Jesus wanted the Laodiceans, he wants us, to see that a life with plenty of stuff, but without him, leaves us “wretched, pitiful, poor.” There are huge gaps in our lives. Something truly valuable is missing.
We are spiritually “poor.” We have no great goodness to be proud of. We have no great works by which we can impress God. An honest look at our lives reveals much of what we do driven by selfishness. We may talk about love and charity and kindness. But just watch what happens when someone crosses us. Our spiritual wallets are empty. As Martin Luther said in his dying words: “We are all beggars, this is true.”
If we are so spiritually poor, how can we “buy” anything from Jesus? The answer is, “We can’t.” We are taking the point of his illustration too far if we think he wants us to make him an offer. The things that come from him come only as gifts. But he is the source from whom we can obtain the things we need.
Jesus urges us to buy “gold refined in the fire.” We don’t need more literal gold, of course. His whole point is the inability of that stuff to provide what we need. But in almost every culture across the ages, gold has been a sign and measure of real wealth. God’s grace is the gold standard for real spiritual riches. Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, the blood he spilled to save us, buys us what nothing else can: full forgiveness for all our sin. It settles our entire debt with God–the whole thing. It leaves no moral demand of God unsatisfied. It bails us out of the hell’s prison, and it secures first class accommodations in heaven. Here is an item for your portfolio that will never lose its value. Here is “stock” that never has a down year.
We live in times of economic uncertainty, but haven’t we always? Should I invest in the stock market, commodities like gold and silver, or real estate? Should I try to start my own business? Should I just put my money in the bank, hide it in my mattress, or bury it in a hole in the back yard? Jesus doesn’t answer questions like that.
He does tell us where to invest our attention, where to put our trust for a blessed present and secure future. “Buy” what he is “selling.” Stock up on grace and forgiveness, faith and love. These are real riches. They offer a return greater than we ever imagined.