In the late 1500’s the English and the Spanish were competing for discoveries in the New World. The English, having seen the gold brought back by the Spanish from South America, headed towards the north seeking a Northwest Passage and gold ore. The English bark Gabriel, was the lead ship in those journeys. The first journey was cut short by storms, but the captain and crew loaded the boat with the ore they found. On the next expedition, the Gabriel and another ship traveled once to the New World once again and found more of the ore. Finally, the Gabriel took one more journey with fourteen other ships who returned to England triumphantly, filled with the ore. Except, the ore the ships brought back each time was iron pyrite, also known as “fool’s gold.” The company that sent the ships went broke trying to smelt the iron pyrite for the gold they thought it had.
The story of the Gabriel is instructive for American Christians today. We seek riches in our relationship with God. We are extremely wealthy, when compared to the rest of the world, and often look with pity on those “poor” Christians who are struggling, especially in areas of persecution. Too often, we assume an attitude of superiority because we not only have avoided persecution, but we have also become well off financially. Were someone from one of those countries where Christians are being persecuted to come to the US, we would listen to him politely, but reject any call he might make to get right with God. “How could things get any better?” we might ask ourselves. It is to people with this attitude that Jesus spoke. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Revelation 3:17-18)
Our riches, our wealth, our position, and our power are all fool’s gold in the eyes of God. We don’t understand true wealth in God’s economy because we have never had to refine what we thought was our spiritual gold. We are very much in the position of the Church at Laodicea. They were wealthy. The Church had power and prestige. They were ignorant of their situation, though. Jesus called them to account on the issue of where their trust was. Did they trust in God or did they trust in their wealth and power? I think the same could be said of the Church in America today. Jesus is calling us out. Do we trust in God or do we trust in our wealth and power? We all know the Sunday School answer: of course we trust in God. Now, let’s ask the question again: do we trust in God or do we trust in our wealth and power? As the teacher in me would say, “Justify your answer.” Or in other words, how can you show that your trust is in God, rather than wealth or power?
I’m not sure how I would show that. I would hope it’s true that my trust is in God, not my wealth and power. I often wonder if I trust in God because He’s given me wealth and power, again, comparatively, and what I would do if that was taken away. I know that I trusted God before I had all the stuff I had now, but have I grow so attached to the “good stuff” of this world that I would be upset and lose my trust were that good stuff to disappear? As I ponder these questions, I think I understand even more why Jesus told the rich, young ruler to sell all that he had and give to the poor. I don’t know if I would do that myself of Jesus asked me to. That scares me….
Lord God, how easy it is to grow so attached to stuff and treasure it like gold, not realizing that it’s fool’s gold. Help me to “buy” gold refined in your fire so that I may stay true to You no matter what happens.