253. JOHN THE BAPTIST, THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA AND THE POOR WIDOW

(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 7)

If John the Baptist were living in these times and in this modern day Church-age, I do believe that many religious people would cast their noses down at him. They would regard him with scorn and contempt because he was not rich and it does not seem that he had a ‘comfortable’ life as we define comfortable today with a nice house, good stable job and lots of money. We would cry shame on him. For, he was clothed in camel’s hair and a leathern girdle around his loins, spent much of his time in the wilderness and actually consumed locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:3-4). What a life to live, many of us would say, in our lofty places of comfort. He can’t be very spiritual, can he? Look at his attire! Look at where he lives! Look at what he eats! He doesn’t even have a job!

Yet, although modern day Christianity would undoubtedly give him a fail grade because many have come to equate possessions with spirituality and to think, contrary to what Christ warned in Luke 12:15, that a person’s worth is tied to the abundance of the things that he possesses, here is what Jesus had to say about John the Baptist:

  • “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women THERE IS NOT A GREATER PROPHET THAN JOHN THE BAPTIST…” (Luke 7:28)

Jesus did not just give John the Baptist a stamp of commendation but he stated that he was the greatest Prophet that ever lived! What a contrast to how modern day Christianity would have regarded him! It highlights the disparity between how the Lord thinks and how we as humans tend to think.

This reminds me of the Church at Smyrna in the book of Revelations. Most likely, the Church at Laodicea, comfortable in its riches and carefree lifestyle and saying “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17), would most likely, have cast their noses down at them. After all, the people in the Church at Smyrna did not have the wealth and were not enjoying the kind of lifestyle that they were enjoying. Surely this meant that they were the spiritual ones, the ones that God was super pleased with and these people, these people at the Church of Smyrna, were outside of his favour!

Yet, here is what Jesus had to say about the Church at Smyrna where the people were living in close destitution, without much money and the comforts of life:

  • “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I KNOW THY WORKS, AND TRIBULATION, AND POVERTY, (BUT THOU ART RICH) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

What a shocker! Jesus gave them a passing grade! Contrary to what people may have thought, looking on, Jesus was pleased with this Church, although they did not have much and were living in what seemed to be abject poverty!

To the world and even other believers elsewhere with a worldly, carnal and spiritually immature way of thinking, these people were undoubtedly poor but Jesus told them “…thou art rich”. See, they were poor when it came to life’s temporary and worthless possessions, accomplishments and materials but they were rich toward God and that was all that mattered! That is what Jesus saw and what he saw, pleased Him.

Ironically, Jesus had something else to say about the Church at Laodicea, where the members were so comfortable in life with the houses, stable and well-paying jobs and finances that they had worked so hard to acquire, that they were sure that God had blessed them because he was pleased with them.

He said:

  • “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that THOU ART NEITHER COLD NOR HOT: I WOULD THOU WERT COLD OR HOT. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 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. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and REPENT .” (Revelation 3:14-19)

Jesus had weighed them in the balance and they had been found wanting! They thought that their abundance meant that they were spiritually rich but Jesus categorized them as poor, miserable, blind and naked. They were blinded by their life of comfort, thinking that all was well with them and their relationship with the Lord because of what he had allowed them to amass but it was not. He was not at all pleased with their conduct. Their riches and life of comfort, had given them a false sense of security and deluded them as to their true spiritual condition. They were spiritually naked, wretched and miserable and did not even realize it.

With all that they had acquired on earth, they had missed the whole point of their purpose for living. They were yet to learn of how to go about buying gold that is tried in the fire, meaning making selfless sacrifices for God, giving up the things that bring comfort to self if required to do so, in order to be faithful to him, being tested in unbelievable ways and still holding on to faith in the Lord, in the midst of great adversity, trials and suffering. These people had not apparently been through any of that, like the Church at Smyrna had been and had not made any such sacrifice. They lacked the fortitude, the passion, the zeal that the Church at Smyrna had, that made them resolve to stand for and identify with the Lord no matter what, even if it meant to lose out on earthly possessions, to suffer loss, to give up a life of comfort and to even lose their lives. Jesus therefore adjudged them in their folly, as poor.

Once again, this highlights the disparity between how the Lord regards situations and how we, as human beings, tend to think. The modern day Church-age, driven by possessions and material wealth and doing well for one’s self in a life of comfort, would have surely given the Church at Laodicea (which clearly had a lot) a passing grade and the Church at Smyrna, a fail. They would have cast their lofty noses down at the Church at Smyrna, even accuse them of not being spiritual and come to the conclusion, that surely, God was not pleased with them and that was why they were suffering so. After all, look at the Church at Laodicea! Why did God see it fit to bless them with so much and the Church at Smyrna with so little? Surely, it must be that he was pleased with the first and displeased with the second! Surely, the first was living a life that pleased him and the other was not!

Yet, nothing could have been so far from the truth. Apart from the fact that Jesus has a different path and purpose for each of his children and not all are called to have the same life blueprint, Jesus set the record straight by making it clear, that he was pleased with the Church at Smyrna. It was the Church at Laodicea that he was not pleased with, despite all their so-called ‘acquisitions’.

The Church at Laodicea may well have thought about the Church at Smyrna, “We are obviously successful because we have all these things and you are obviously a failure because you don’t have these things. We therefore have the right to lecture you, to school you, as an authority on ‘success’, as to where you’ve gone wrong in life and why God is obviously displeased with you but clearly pleased with me.”

Now this is all conjecture. There is no record of the Church of Laodicea ever saying or intimating such a thing to the Church at Smyrna. However, by the words of the Laodiceans that are recorded in the Bible, they definitely had the prideful mentality that is characteristic with such an action, having convinced themselves by the extent of all that they had accomplished and amassed in life, that they were highly favoured of the Lord and self-sufficient.

Yet, as stated before, the Lord was highly displeased with them, disgusted even, letting them know that he would spue them out of his mouth unless they repented. On the other hand, he was pleased with the suffering Church, the Church that had been through so much and was still going through much and had nothing of material possessions to show.

This reminds me of the widow in the Bible with the last two mites. Once again, her story highlights the disparity between how people, even many professers of Christianity, think and how God thinks.

The Word of God states:

  • “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That THIS POOR WIDOW HATH CAST MORE IN, THAN ALL THEY WHICH HAVE CAST INTO THE TREASURY: FOR ALL THEY DID CAST IN OF THEIR ABUNDANCE; BUT SHE OF HER WANT DID CAST IN ALL THAT SHE HAD, EVEN ALL HER LIVING.”

Modern day Christianity would have condemned her. They would have jumped to conclusions from the get-go, to the effect that she must not be living for God because if she was, then she would not have been so poor. She would not have been in such want.

Modern day Christianity tends to think, that if one believer is being blessed with much, that that is God’s will for every believer, that every believer is supposed to have all those ‘good’ things as well and if they don’t, it is God frowning upon them with disfavour. Modern day Christianity displays its ignorance, thinking that it is God’s will for every Christian to have the same experience, take the same path, achieve the same accomplishments and have the same level of life’s comforts, which is often defined as a spouse, children, well-paying job, lovely home, a car and a generous amount of finances.

Modern day Christianity would have thought therefore, that surely, there was some sin in the life of the poor widow and that this was why she only had two mites and maybe even was left husbandless. It would have thought that, given her lack, she was a nobody and insignificant. She could never do much for the Lord, for, she had nothing close to what the others had and so, could never even dream to begin to give as generously as they could and had done. Surely, God was pleased with their plenty, looked favourably upon their bountiful offering and casting scorn on her little!

Yet, this was not at all the case. Jesus, looking on and pronouncing on the situation, was most pleased with this lady’s giving. For, he saw what others could not see. He saw her heart and knew her situation. Although she was a widow and therefore had no man to take care of her and although she was dirt poor and in want, to the point that she only had two mites to her name, out of a heart of love and devotion to the Lord, she gave selflessly, sacrificially, irrespective of the consequence, by giving her all. She gave up what little she had and all that she had, trusting the Lord to continue to take care of her, somehow.

This was the kind of giving that brought joy to the heart of the Lord. He did not once say that it was because this lady, who undoubtedly was not perfect, had lived a life of sin, that she was in the situation that she was in or that she must have displeased God in some way and therefore, she was left with no husband and only two mites to her name. In her earthly poverty, the Lord saw her as rich and that is all that mattered.

In Isaiah 55:8-9, God himself highlighted the disparity between how he sees things (which is right) and how we, as fallen people with limited knowledge and wisdom, tend to see things. He stated through his Prophet:

  • “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Written on 03rd August, 2022)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying, you may also be interested in reading the following:

  • Note 18 – ‘Riches, Abundance, Breakthrough And Promotion – Lies From The Pit Of Hell’
  • Note 22 – ‘Are You Spiritually Sober Or Intoxicated?’
  • Note 30 – ‘The Price Tag Of Success’
  • Note 42 – ‘Ten Red Flags That That Speaker Or Teacher is a Wolf Disguised In Sheep’s Clothing or Operating Under the Devil’s Deception’
  • Note 51 – ‘I Know The Plans I Have For You…’
  • Note 120 – ‘God – I Am A Great King’
  • Note 130 – ‘The Paradoxical Principles To Successful Living – God’s Manual’
  • Note 131 – ‘Want To Be Rich? Read This’
  • Note 136 – ‘Money Is Not The Driving Force In My Life’
  • Note 142 – ‘Are You Chasing After Success?’
  • Note 156 – ‘Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea – My Humble View Of The Letters Of The Glorified Jesus To The Seven Churches (Part 3)’
  • Note 180 – ‘To Comfort Self Or To Pursue The Will Of God?’
  • Note 189 – ‘How To Have Good Success’
  • Note 212 – ‘What Are You Most Passionate About?’
  • Note 214 – ‘I Would Thou Wert Cold Or Hot’
  • Note 230 – ‘How Riches Deceive’
  • Note 238 – ‘The Deplorably Pathetic Spiritual State Of Most Churches Today’

Additionally, under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ page:

  • Note 146 – ‘Three Idols In The Church – Getting Married, Having Children And Working A Secular Job’
  • Note 275 – ‘How God Wants Us To Treat With Our Idols’
  • Note 276 – ‘Are You In Love With Money? People Who Loved Money To Their Detriment, In The Bible’
  • Note 313 – ‘Earth Poor But Heaven Rich’

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