Laodicea would have been classified as “red” city if it were around today. The city was a prosperous financial and trade center. It was known for its fine linens. It had a great medical school. It was a city of beauty, and the arts flourished there. In 60 A.D. an earthquake leveled the city. The citizens refused any assistance from the Roman government and rebuilt the city solely with their own funds. Laodicea would certainly make the top ten list of the most desirable places to live and raise a family. After all, a place like Laodicea provided all the opportunities for children to become involved in higher education, sports, the arts and community service.
Laodicea also had a church. The church had become like the city around it. They thought of themselves as wealthy and not in need of anything. Perhaps they even supported other churches. But in the process of being like the wealthy city it served, the Laodicean church had become something else. It had become lukewarm. Wealth in combination with being lukewarm leads to being out of touch with reality (being wealthy was not the problem; being lukewarm was the problem). This lukewarm condition was what Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:24:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
The church at Laodicea became like the emperor in the fable. They deluded themselves into thinking that they were dressed in the finest of new clothes and possessed great riches. Jesus Christ looked at them and said, “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. Revelation 3:17b
The Laodicean church brings to mind someone else who thought that he could serve God and money. Matthew 19:16-22 tells the story of a young man who was similarly deceived. He was outwardly good, religiously keeping the commandments that could be observed by others. He was obviously well trained and responsible. But when offered true riches, he showed that he was just as delusional as the Laodiceans. He was lukewarm. He looked good on the outside but was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
This young man would have been a joy to raise. Perhaps the young man’s parents were asked how they raised such a responsible, respectable son. Appearances are often deceiving. This young man had no idea what constituted true riches. He looked as if he was wise, yet he was a fool. He had become comfortable with the best the world had to offer. He had become just like those in Laodicea; he had become lukewarm.
In contrast, there was nothing lukewarm about Josiah. Josiah was probably about the same age as this young man in Matthew 19 when he also had a choice to make. Josiah gave himself passionately to the glory of God. The church at Laodicea would not have been happy with Josiah. They would not have approved of the harsh critique of the comfortable lifestyle they enjoyed. In contrast, the rich young man and his parents would have fit in well at Laodicea. Josiah did not have godly parents – far from it – but his heart was stirred by the love of God and his word. He was the opposite of lukewarm!
Parents, don’t look to modern day Laodiceans to serve as the yardstick to gauge the success of your parenting. Don’t allow our modern culture to chart the course of your children’s future. Fitting in with Laodicea, as comfortable and attractive as that may be, should not be desirable for yourselves or for your children. Don’t settle for lukewarm. Teach your children to regard disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the false, delusional treasures of Laodicea.