Out of all the letters to the churches in Revelation, this one seems incredibly harsh. Right after God describes the Laodicean Church as useless, he insults them by saying he’s ready to spit them out of his mouth. If that’s not bad enough, he goes on to list a whole bunch of terrible things that he says describes them. He calls them wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. This doesn’t sound pleasant. On first read, God doesn’t appear very kind here. Perhaps you’re slightly confused by what God’s really getting at. And, it only seems to get more confusing.
You’ll notice in the next section, God turns toward words of counsel and he invites the Laodiceans to go… shopping. That’s right. Shopping.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
He flat out instructs this church to buy three things: gold, garments, and salve. Have you ever considered how God directly encourages consumption here? Interestingly enough, this is not the first-time God’s used consumer language in the Scriptures. In Isaiah 55:1, he invites his people to “come to the waters; He who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” God even describes that it’s possible to consume the right things without having money to exchange.
It’s clear God assumes the Laodiceans are going to consume. It’s not only in their culture, it’s in their design. In fact, God created all of us this way. When “God formed the man… and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for “living creature” is “nephesh” which has been translated “living appetite.” All of us have been created as “living appetites,” hungry for something the world’s gold, garments, and salve simply cannot satisfy.
When God invites the Laodiceans to buy from him, God’s offering something that truly satisfies. They shop for gold to remain self-sufficient, safe, and secure, but God’s inviting them to find true sufficiency, safety, and security from his grace. They shop for black wool to cover their shame and to hide the fact that they don’t have it altogether, but God’s inviting them to admit they need him so he can clothe them in forgiveness. They shop for salve to find clear vision, but God’s inviting them into a heavenly perspective and wisdom for all of life.
God’s not trying to be mean here, he’s simply showing this church he’s got something way better in store. If only they could realize that the products they’re currently buying are only numbing them to the truth and keeping them from the limitless satisfaction found when God becomes their permanent vendor.
Sit with the idea of being created as a “nephesh” or “living appetite” and God as your permanent vendor as you listen to Hungry by Kathryn Scott.
By Yvonne Biel