Wretched, Miserable, Poor, Blind, and Naked

Standard

14 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;

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue [from the Greek vomit] thee out of my mouth.

17 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:

18 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.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev. 3:14-22).

John covered a lot of doctrine in these verses. I want to focus mainly on verses 17 and 18: “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.”

The church members in Laodicea were prideful. They believed they were wealthy because they had worldly riches. They are oblivious to the fact that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. How can they [we] not know that they are wretched?

The prophet Alma taught his son: “Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” (Alma 41:10-11).

When we are doing things that are contrary to the nature of God, when we are not striving to like a godly life, we are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness. We cannot be happy, at least not truly happy. It is simply not possible. Now, we might lack insight about our unhappiness but we, in our sinful states, are unhappy all the same. The converse of this is not true – not all sorrow or unhappiness or depression is caused by sin – but if we believe the scriptures, we know that those who sin (particularly if they are not sinning in ignorance) are living in a state contrary to the nature of happiness and are wretched and miserable.

What does all this have to do with the Laodiceans and their worldly wealth? The prophet Moroni watched his civilization crumble because of wickedness. He watched culture and religion decay into wildness and anarchy. Why did this happen? Pride. “And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Moroni 8:36-37).

We learn in the New Testament a similar connection between pride, money, and wickedness: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” (1 Timothy 6:10-11).

The cure for this cancer of pride and wickedness is to flee from the love of money. We must flee from pride just as Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife. We do not just run away, we run towards Christ and His Atonement; we run from evil towards good. That is the only way to avoid being “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” even if we have worldly wealth. Sin blinds us to our condition. We, as I wrote earlier, in our sinful states do not realize that we are blind. We follow blind guides instead of reaching for Christ, who can heal our blindness. Those who repent, those who follow Christ will overcome the world just as He overcame the world. Those who are righteous will be able to sit with Christ in His throne, which is His Father’s throne. Those who overcome can become like Christ and inherit what He has inherited. Do we sell this eternal inheritance for a worldly bauble? Do we give up a throne for a minute of amusement?  The only true and happy way is through Christ.

Paul on Sacrifice

Standard

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Paul recognizes the ephemerality of worldly possessions. He sacrificed all that he had in order to share the gospel of Christ. It was part of his calling as apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul states: “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” We need to be willing to sacrifice all we have in order to “win Christ.” We have to make sacrifices.

I like Paul’s term – “dung” or, translated differently, “refuse”. Our worldly possessions really, in the long run, do not matter much. What matters is our faith in Christ and our righteousness. Paul counted his possessions as dung – not worth anything. He suffered the loss of all things and was glad to do it for Christ.

However, why I think that the translation of the Greek as “dung” is appropriate is because of how this applies to our worldly possessions. Are they just a big pile of dung, stinking up our lives, making us spiritually ill? Or, do we spread the dung around as fertilizer to help things grow? Dung can help produce new life by helping other things grow. Or, dung can just pile up as a cesspool of filth.

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob taught: “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” (Jacob 2:18-19). Riches need to be used to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to liberate the captive, and to administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. If they are not, riches become a cesspool of filth to us, they are as a pile of dung, piling up in our homes and our lives. Instead, we need to take this dung (all worldly possessions really are refuse) and fertilize those around us – help them to receive nourishment. As we sacrifice for others, dedicating those sacrifices to Christ, we, with Paul, might “win Christ.”

The Rich Young Man

Standard

One scripture character I like is the rich young man who approached the Savior to learn what he could do to gain eternal life. “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And [Jesus] said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He [the young man] saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 19:16-19). The Savior taught two important lessons. First, that He was distinct from His Father. Second, the way to eternal life is to keep the commandments (this does not minimize the atonement of the Savior).

Here’s the young man’s reply to the Savior: “All these thing have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” He honestly answered the Savior; he was a good person. Jesus knew the young man’s heart: “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:20-22). In Mark it reads, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest…” (Mark 10:21). The Savior saw the young man’s heart and honesty. This is someone who truly was a good person. However, he had one main problem, he loved his riches. Why is a love of riches contrary to eternal life?

Loving riches is a sign of pride. Loving riches is having a god before the One True God. It is worshiping at the haughty altars of Mammon instead of with the humble followers of Christ. If someone loves their riches, they are unable to consecrate their all to the Lord. This consecration is necessary to enter into the kingdom.

I like to believe that this young man later repented and followed the Savior. He may not have – there are many good people who are not willing to make the necessary sacrifices that are required by the Savior – but I like to be optimistic. He was a good person who let his trust in money overpower his trust in the gospel and in the Savior. I like this story because it helps me keep worldly goods in perspective. Those who love money – whether they have it or not – have a hard time fully living the gospel and making the sacrifices required of them.