“It’s true what they say: Money isn’t everything, but it certainly keeps you in touch with your children—or grandchildren.” I heard a very wise policy on shopping and spending money. It may sound a little drastic, but it has the ring of truth to it. This person said, “I’m currently boycotting any company that sells items I can’t afford.”
There has never been a time in history when many people didn’t mistakenly believe that possessing great material wealth was the key to happiness. Scripture wisely said two thousand years ago, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Being wealthy today is something many people live for and die because of.
The Ephesians also understood great wealth. Prosperous, sophisticated, highly cultured, Ephesus was the leading city of the wealthy and populous Roman province of Asia, one of the most precious jewels in the empire’s crown. Located on the Aegean coast in modern-day Turkey, it was known as the site of one of the seven wonders of the world: the great temple of Artemis, mother-goddess and matron of the city.
Ephesus had marble streets, mosaic sidewalks, a busy port, a popular athletic arena, one of the finest libraries in the first and second century, and villas that were filled with artwork, tapestries, silks and exotic birds and animals. Some of its wealthiest citizens lived in expensive condominiums known as the Houses on the Slopes.
The Ephesians knew wealth and riches. It was all around them. But it was the material kind, not the spiritual kind. The Letter to the Ephesians offered them a different kind of riches and inheritance. Some heard and became Christian; others kept to their old way.
Ephesians 1:3 tells us in Christ and because of Christ we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing.” There is no “almost” every spiritual blessing, or a lot of spiritual blessings, or more than you can imagine. In Christ, the heavenly treasure has been opened and poured out.
When you tap into Christ, you tap into God’s spiritual gift box. When you connect your life to Christ’s life, you connect yourself to the Lord’s wealth of blessings. We connect to Christ Jesus when our faith opens us to listening to the Lord more than to other words, to believing in his teachings more than other teachings, to giving thanks to God for Christ more than for other things we have.
It’s important we drown out so many of the messages we hear about how to live our lives and focus instead on strengthening our connection to Christ’s life and teachings. God wants to bless us but can’t if we aren’t asking God for those blessings. The Lord seeks to make us richer but not if we don’t care about gaining that type of wealth.
Seek a treasure where rust and moths don’t corrode or eat away. Get passionate for what God wants to do with your life rather than just what you want to get out of your life. Only heavenly blessings last.
But there is a catch. Yes, in Christ we have a spiritual wealth that we wouldn’t have, but we have only heard the first part of verse 3. The second half starts out with “just as,” meaning “equally so.” Just as God has given us untold spiritual blessings, “equally so God chose us in Christ Jesus … to be holy and blameless before him in love.”
We are holy and blameless when we are willing to love. Our willingness to love shows we value Christ’s spiritual blessings and will take care of them. You see, God doesn’t spoil us. We can’t be recipients of untold treasure if we won’t handle them properly or don’t care for them as they ought to be cared for. God doesn’t cast pearls before swine, so to speak.
We ought to be willing to love. Turn your heart over to loving. Practice patience with the impatient, kindness toward the unkind, generosity with the ungenerous. Give up your envy, resist being irritable and irritating. Practice praying for others, blessing those who are real challenges to you. Keep working at forgiving those whose original hurt continues to wound you.
Love isn’t free, at least not the love you give away. It costs. You will have to change your mind about your prerogatives, about what people owe you before they get what they’re owed. When you love in Christ’s way, you may come up empty in things and the rewards you thought were important before you decided to be wealthy spiritually in Christ.
But the Lord will reward those who seek to be holy and blameless because they love in Christ. There’s abundant treasure for those who want heaven’s wealth rather than empty gain. A heart of compassion is gold. A conscience at ease is a crown. A spirit of joy is the great pearl within. A soul of forgiveness is Christ in you on earth. These can be yours if you’re willing to love.
Ephesians verse 5 says, God “destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ….” What God really wants to give us is the ultimate
gift: to adopt us. The greatest spiritual gift the Lord can give us is to ask us is to come home and be family.
Too many times, we refuse. It’s upsetting to know that many feel that since they’ve been on their own for longer than they can remember, it’s how things are meant to be. It’s not.
We let others take God’s love from us. Perhaps a family member didn’t show God’s love, so we no longer think so highly of family. Don’t judge God’s love for you by the lack of love from someone, even if that person was supposed to love you. Don’t let that make you go deaf to God’s good news in Christ. Someone may have made you blind to God’s blessings. Get your sight back. You have a home with the Lord. God’s heart is for you. The Lord is calling you into his family.
But we’ve got to want what God’s offering. When the Lord calls, we can’t hear it if we’re not interested in picking up the phone. This is one of the reasons our passage talks about being chosen and destined and elected. Some folks have an interest; others don’t.
It’s so easy today not to hear anything. We’re so overloaded and stimulated and enthralled with our busy, entertaining, technological extravaganza of a world we’ve created that family life isn’t as important as it used to be; God isn’t as important as the Lord used to be. Church doesn’t have the same mojo it used to have in many people’s eyes.
But nothing good happens when folks forget their heart, convince themselves they don’t need a soul, and refuse to grow spiritually. How can people be so satisfied with iPhones and TV, with antagonism and anger? Who cares if you can see Youtube videos wherever you are. Quick resentment of others doesn’t make us tough or right. Who wants to only be as good tomorrow as you were yesterday, or five years from now as you were ten?
Somehow this stuff outweighs the riches the Lord is offering us in Christ. That’s foolishness. Don’t be so easily satisfied. Stop lowering standards for yourself. Rise to where God can reach you. Seek the Lord’s glorious grace freely bestowed on us in Christ. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The truth is many don’t seek the Lord because they don’t believe the Lord wants them. They’re outside the family because that’s where they belong. They haven’t done well enough. They’ve wasted too much of their
lives to believe they should be given a chance any longer to make something of themselves.
They’re estranged from the ones whom they were supposed to love or were supposed to love them, so no God who loves can want them. They hurt too many people to get a reprieve now. They cheated or lied their way through life and so there’s little left in them they believe to offer God as a gift or a sacrifice or a token. They can’t forgive themselves, so how can God forgive them.
They wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have them as a member anyway, as Grocho Marx used to quip.
But this isn’t what God wants us to believe. Verse 7 says, “In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that (God) lavished on us.”
No material riches compare to being brought back to life and given worth again. No earthly wealth equals the heavenly treasure of being forgiven. You are God’s family. It may have cost the Lord plenty but you’re worth it. As scripture says, Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I don’t know if you know the biblical John Mark’s story but here’s someone who was doing great but slipped up.
John Mark’s family was an important group of people in the early church. When Peter was miraculously released from prison, he knows that the believers will be gathered at the home of John Mark’s family. Due to his family’s significance and their relationship to an early teacher named Barnabus, Paul picks John Mark up on the way back from a mission trip to Jerusalem to take him with them to Antioch.
From there, Paul and Barnabas are sent to Cyrus, bringing John Mark along with them as an assistant. Somewhere along the way, John Mark decides that he’s had enough. After sailing to Perga, Acts tells us matter-of-factly that John left them there and returned to Jerusalem. It looks as though he quit when the going got rough.
When Barnabas later suggests to Paul that they go get John Mark, Paul refuses. Such a strong disagreement arises between the two that Barnabas and Paul separate. These two men who had been on multiple mission trips together are so divided over young John Mark that they will no longer work together. Talk about having a negative impact.
Many years later, however, when Paul sits in prison awaiting trial, he writes a letter to the church at Colossae. He not only tells them that John Mark is with him and has been a great comfort, but he also tells them that they’re to welcome John Mark if he shows up. The young man that had disappointed Paul had now become a man who brought him comfort, someone Paul was proud to call a “fellow worker.”
How about that turn around! You see, Paul knew how important forgiveness was. He had received it himself when he persecuted the very first Christians. Rich in God’s treasure of heavenly blessings, he shared what he had with John Mark.
God’s love for you is complete. Christ gave us new life through his cross. We are wealthy in God’s forgiveness, rich in the Lord’s compassion, full of the treasure of God’s grace. Don’t be fooled by what the world seems to give. What the Lord wants you to have is worth more can be counted.
Can the church s