Verse 17: "Because you say, I am wealthy and have become rich and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."
"You say." This is the Laodicea in the eyes of Laodicea. Among all the seven churches, no one has a higher self-esteem than Laodicea. Self-pride and coldness are two twin sisters. When the heart is cold towards the Lord, boastings of men often develop. Much boasting causes one to be obsessed with oneself and fills the mind with grand imaginations about oneself. The result is more boasting. What a dreadful thing it is to see such boasting in the face of judgment! Those who walk humbly will walk steadily, but those with a haughty heart are about to fall. If we do not have the thought that we are stronger than others and are not self-satisfied with our own progress, we are not yet in the realm of Laodicea. Once the self is raised, promoted, or glorified, the boastful voice of Laodicea is already silently heard. How different are the opinions of these ones from those of the Lord Jesus! We have to be careful, for our own estimate of ourselves may not be that reliable. Many times we forget to see the light in the light of the Lord, which results in inaccurate self-estimation. What is the use of self-examination for a person whose nature is as corrupt as ours is? The less we have anything to do with ourselves, the less we will be deceived. If we hope for the self to inform us of its true condition, we are in reality conferring with a thief. Nothing in the whole world is more unreliable than our self. Indeed man’s heart, and specifically my heart, is more wicked than all things. If we really want to advance spiritually and to understand the true nature of ourselves, there is no other way but to ask the Spirit of the Lord to reveal Himself to us. If we listen to our own deception, we will soon become a Laodicean. Only those who are willing to be deceived and who are satisfied by the outward appearance of Laodicea will listen to what the self says about itself. How difficult it is to hear the speaking of the Holy Spirit! We may not be able to hear anything from our self other than our corruption. "I am wealthy and have become rich." What riches is this referring to? Does this refer to spiritual or material riches? According to the book of Revelation, one can only interpret something spiritually when it cannot be interpreted literally. Of course, behind the literal meaning, there is often a spiritual meaning. Here it refers firstly to material riches, but at the same time it also refers to spiritual riches.
The above two expressions are slightly different in meaning. To say "I am wealthy" refers to its being rich originally, and to say "I have become rich" refers to its increasing its riches later. These expressions tell us how it has labored and has succeeded, how it seeks for riches and has found them.
Here we also see the hidden reason behind the church’s coldness. The Lord Jesus told us that we cannot serve God and at the same time serve mammon. These two lords are completely opposite one to another. Their commands and demands are also absolutely different. If you listen to one, you are offending the other. A heart cannot faithfully serve two opposite characters simultaneously. No matter how much believers try to pull things together, they can only choose to be the servant of one of the two. However, Laodicea does not believe in this truth. As a result, it acts ambivalently and puts itself into great jeopardy. The closer it is to mammon, the farther its heart is from Christ. "But those who intend to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all evils, because of which some, aspiring after money, have been led away from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pains. But you, O man of God, flee these things" (1 Tim. 6:9-11). Riches are a blessing that belong to the age of the law. Now, however, the Lord Jesus says, "Woe to you who are rich" (Luke 6:24; Matt. 19:23-24).
It is true that God wants the believers to be rich now, but with what kind of riches? According to the word of promise (2 Cor. 8:9), God has absolutely no intention for believers to be rich in this age. If our Lord was poor to the uttermost on earth, I do not see how those who would love Him faithfully and who would follow Him could have the right to be rich in this world. Where our money is, there our heart is also. There is no such thing as accumulating riches on earth while setting the heart on heaven. Strictly speaking, no rich believer follows the Lord faithfully. All rich believers, without exception, are worldly Christians. It does not matter how much alive he is outwardly. If he is really spiritual, he will surely give up everything to follow the Lord. We should never be deceived to think that the condition for being the Lord’s disciple is easier for the flesh today than when the Lord Jesus was on earth. As the disciples of that day were to give up everything to follow the Lord, we should do the same. While the Lord allows us to remain on earth, He does not want us to consider anything to be ours. Does this then mean that the poor believers are more spiritual and more perfect than the rich believers? No. The apostle did not say that rich men will fall into a snare, but "those who intend to be rich." Many poor believers are not rich, yet they resolve to be rich. Although they are not rich yet, they think about being rich. This is to serve mammon. This is why the Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). Not only should we be poor in outward material things, but we should always have an attitude that we are poor in spirit and in heart. If our spirits are poor, it will be impossible for us to be rich in material things.
What a pity that there are too many rich Christians today! They have never realized how much their riches have damaged their spiritual testimony and life. There are too many believers today who want to become rich! Even those who are so-called "living by faith" are not free from this kind of thought. The world can come in different wrappings, but the principle is the same. All those who want to gain something more, who want to have something more for themselves, are servants of mammon. If a believer’s heart is not weaned from the world, he will always be found in the world. Some may possess a world that looks and sounds better than others. Let me declare the Lord’s will today: the Lord does not want you to be rich in this world.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)