Sermons

Summary: There are rich Christians who live in utter poverty says Jesus. But to the church in Smyrna He says, "I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich!" So you have in the judgment of Jesus your poor Christians who are rich, and your rich Christians who are poor.

One of the great paradoxes of life is the fact that the poor can be richer than the rich. Poverty is no

necessary hindrance to being wealthy. Wealth, on the other hand, is no guarantee of being truly rich.

Even rich Christians are often not rich just because they have wealth. Charles Schultz, the richest

cartoonist in history, with his comic strip Peanuts has terrible limitations in spite of his wealth of

many millions. He can afford to go anywhere anytime, but he has a form of agoraphobia that makes

him fear to go places. The very thought of walking through a hotel lobby makes him sweat with

fear. He has his own jet, but he avoids travel and spends a lot of time just being depressed. All his

millions do not make him happier.

He is in a sort of perpetual state of grief, but it is called good grief, for out of his sadness he is able to

produce laughter, for he can see the funny side of failure, which he is constantly depicting in the life

of Charlie Brown who fails in romance, sports, flying kites, and life in general. Losing is funny

when it is happening to Charlie Brown and not to us. This laughter at life's misfortunes has made

Schultz a fortune, and he is good at portraying it because he lives it.

When he portrays Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, "Don't let you team down by showing up," he is

expressing what he experienced in his own childhood. His father's barbershop was where O'gara's is

now on Snelling Ave. in St. Paul, MN, and he writes of his experience there as a child. "I

remember when I use to go into my father's barbershop for a hair cut. If a paying customer came in

while I was in the chair, I 'd have to step down and wait for my father to cut his hair. There I would

sit, with half a hair cut, feeling ridiculous." We could go on and on about his feelings of rejection

and failure which he cannot escape even as one of the richest people in the world.

The point his life illustrates is one of the major points of the Risen Lord to his churches. Poverty

and wealth are very relative terms, and people with riches can be poor, and people with little wealth

can be rich. It works both ways for Christians also, for Jesus says to the church of Laodicea in 3:17,

"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." There are rich Christians who live in utter poverty

says Jesus. But to the church in Smyrna He says, "I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you

are rich!" So you have in the judgment of Jesus your poor Christians who are rich, and your rich

Christians who are poor.

In other words, Jesus had a different standard of values than the world. Christians are pretty

much a product of their culture, and most cultures judge riches by material possessions. The church

with the biggest buildings and most land, and where the parking lot is filled with the most expensive

cars is the rich church. It would be folly to assume that every church like that is in reality poor in

their spiritual wealth, but it is equally folly to ignore Jesus and assume that sort of wealth makes a

church spiritually rich. It is also jumping to conclusions to assume that the poor struggling church is

a gold mine of spiritual wealth. The only thing we can know for sure is the value of any church to

Christ is not one that can be determined by its net worth in dollars.

Jesus is saying that richness is more a matter of attitude than accumulation. He is not saying

accumulation is evil, but He is saying it is meaningless without the proper attitude. If you have a

wrong spirit that is not pleasing to Him, you can have gold plated pews and diamonds studded

hymnals, and you will still be poor to Him. On the other hand, you can have wood pews and hand

me down hymnals and be rich if your attitude is one that pleases the Lord of the church. Jesus just

loved this church of Smyrna. He had not a critical word for them which he had for the others. It was

a suffering church; a persecuted church; a church where loyalty to Christ could very well mean

death.

Jesus loved it, but American Christians hate this kind of church. Vance Havner wrote, "It is not easy

to preach on Smyrna nowadays. The average American congregation is in no mood to appreciate

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