Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep– So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. – Proverbs 6:6-11 (NKJV)
As we drive home from a long work day, we like to daydream of a tall feather bed with soft sheets and pillows. We want to wake up the next morning and have someone serve us bacon and eggs in this bed. As we wait to rest our aching bones, we like to daydream of a life of physical ease – one where we’re served our every need or want without lifting a finger. But we can’t live this dream – not while unborn children are murdered, born children are neglected and abused, justice is falling in the streets, and Christians are persecuted (and dying) for the faith.
God designed us to work in the daytime and rest (sleep) at night. Those who work the night shift reverse this process, but they still find time to rest. We should also rest one day per week, preferably Sunday. That way we would get more work done on the other six days. People who work long, hard hours need rest.
However, the “bed of ease” daydream I’m referring to is not really resting after work. Rather it’s resting when we should be working. Some able-bodied people rest so much they’re of no earthly use. It’s almost like they want to be waited on hand and foot without lifting a finger, while they play all day. They want to be “at ease in Zion” while their brethren suffer.
A few years ago, I heard a Pentecostal preacher say, “We rest before we’re tired.” He was referring to golf-playing pastors and he’s right. I’m sure pastors can find something more worthwhile to do than play golf. They’re supposed to lead the lost to Christ before they die and enter hell for eternity. Pastors are supposed to shepherd the saints to heaven too. There’s too much kingdom work left to do for any pastor ever to find his way onto a golf course. Golf evangelistic outreaches: who came up with such an idea? They’re a waste of time.
Yet I didn’t feel the horror of this “rest” statement until I subscribed to Capitol Commission, a Christian ministry to those who work in our state and federal capital cities. National spokesman and president Jim Young often sends email on prayer and issues of national interest. However, the Tennessee spokesman I subscribed to – the man chosen to pray, lead others to pray, and be a watchman on the walls – rarely sent email. When I checked his web profile, I learned the man liked to play golf. He was replaced by Dennis Kiser less than three months ago. Dennis also likes to play golf, but at least he has a pastoral, missionary, and crisis pregnancy center background.
“We rest before we’re tired.”
The scenes I’ve witnessed lately on campuses and street corners also speak this truth. I often see young people listening to music while lounging in lawn chairs and cars – in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe it is a sunny day near the end of the semester. But don’t these people have something better to do? Habitat for Humanity and para-church ministries in downtown areas often need volunteers. They work from dawn to dusk and don’t have time to rest. Neither do the people they serve – some of whom don’t own a radio, a lawn chair, a car, or even a home.
Whole churches are just as guilty of resting. The Southern Baptist church I attend has a “recreation ministry.” I had never heard of such a thing before I came to this church. Others don’t have one. This ministry likes to camp, knit, swim, and play golf.
Even worse are the church flyers with advertisements about cruises. Attendees can hear famous speakers like Beth Moore and the Kendrick brothers (Sherwood), and hear famous bands like Third Day and the Gaither Homecoming Friends. Who will help the world’s unborn, neglected, persecuted, and spiritually lost while these people are resting? Do they even hear the cries for help?
I don’t know what happens on cruises. I’ve never gone on one and I don’t want to. I’m not interested in recreation and fine dining. If someone invited me on a cruise, I would turn them down. Of course, maybe Christian cruises aren’t plagued with cheap sex, alcohol, and theft. Maybe they’re more “holy.” Yet I wish Christian speakers and musicians would find another venue. Christian worship, preaching, and prayer just don’t mix with lavish recreation. If Jesus had been given an opportunity to attend a cruise, would he have gone? I doubt it.
Jesus and Laodicea
Let’s talk about Jesus. Let’s talk about the poor, hardworking Jewish carpenter and preacher who lived in first-century Israel. Jesus didn’t come to this earth as a king. He didn’t wear a gold crown and nice clothes. He didn’t live in a fine palace and lie on a feather bed at night. Instead, Jesus was reared as the adopted son of a poor carpenter (Joseph). He learned to work hard. When he grew up, Jesus became a poor carpenter himself until he left his trade at age 30 to preach the gospel and heal the sick. Once in ministry, Jesus had no place to lay his head at night (Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58). The Son of God was homeless; he probably slept on the ground in the open air. Jesus also relied on believing women to attend to his basic needs.
Did Jesus play golf or attend cruises? No. He had neither the inclination nor the time. Jesus was too busy preaching and healing. So were his disciples.
Some Bible saints were rich. Most were not. But except for the believing kings of Israel and their wives, and Queen Esther, I doubt any of the rich saints had as good a material life as we have it today. The wealth of men like Abraham usually came from livestock and land – not fine homes, clothing, furniture, and accessories (think cars and boats).
Some Christians in first-world nations today have all these things in triplicate. They’re Laodicea. They think they’re rich and have need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). They don’t know how spiritually poor in faith they are – the only type of wealth that matters or will even last. They don’t know they’re laying up treasures on earth and leaving heaven bankrupt. They don’t know how materially poor their developing and third-world brothers and sisters are either.
Unlike the Laodiceans in the West, these people are spiritually rich in faith. Their lives resemble the Bible saints. They daily partake of the fullness of Christ and trust him for their daily bread. They don’t need or want the world’s wealth, which they know they can’t take with them and which will pass away when God destroys the earth in fire.
A Life of Thanksgiving
I live in a two-story house. I own one car, and lots of clothes and books. But I’m not rich by today’s standards and I never have been. I’m grateful for what I have and I don’t complain. I don’t ask God for things either. I don’t own much, but I could own less. All I need to survive (and be happy) is a laptop, an mp3 player, a car, and a few clothes and books. I don’t want the Laodiceans’ lives of wealth and ease. I don’t even envy them when I pass their fine homes on the way to church and work.
Yet I know some Christians who do envy these people. They don’t rest or live soft lives, but they want to. They see what the Laodiceans have, they watch what the Laodiceans do, and they want a piece of the pie. They want the bed of ease.
The Israelites also wanted rest and good food, in the wilderness. When they didn’t get it, they complained and threatened to return to Egypt like spoiled children. God always provided their daily needs. Sometimes, however, he gave the Israelites what they wanted – and then destroyed some of them for their greed and lack of faith. Complaining can be deadly. Thanksgiving is better.
King David lived his last 30 years in a fine palace in Jerusalem. However, he knew what it was to rely on God for his daily bread. David grew up as a poor shepherd. While running from King Saul, he lived in caves and prayed for a cup of water from the well of Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:15). David knew poverty but he didn’t complain. He also knew the faithfulness of God. So the soft life of a king’s palace didn’t turn his heart from God. Even when confronted with his sins of adultery and murder, David repented (2 Samuel 11-12).
King Solomon didn’t have his father’s wilderness experiences. He didn’t learn to trust God for his daily bread. All Solomon knew was the prince’s life in a palace. So money, horses, and strange women turned his heart from God (1 Kings 10-11). Did Solomon die in the faith? I don’t know.
Paul wrote Philippians while sitting in jail. He told them, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (4:11-12). Paul’s material life, whether full or empty, didn’t matter. He trusted in God to provide.
Laodiceans in the church today must “be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). They must stop purchasing the world’s wealth, and stop considering it as such! All those things will pass away in the fire of judgment; its buyers will be left with nothing of eternal value. Heaven’s wealth is “gold tried in the fire” and the “white raiment” of purity (3:18). Laodiceans need to learn to say “no.” They should give away what they don’t need, laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 19:21).
Christians who want the Laodicean life, the bed of ease, must be thankful – not greedy and envious. Having food and clothes, they must learn to be content with what they have (1 Timothy 6:8). They are promised God’s presence and faithfulness, not material goods (Hebrews 13:5). God will reward their work if done in faithfulness and with a pure heart.
If we truly want to be like Jesus, we must do the kingdom work of God while it is still daylight. “Night is coming when no man can work” (John 9:4). We’re promised eternal rest in heaven – not before. Let us rise from our soft beds of ease and get to work!