Laodicea was a city known for its wealth and opulence. The citizens of Laodicea were so wealthy that they refused financial assistance from Rome after an earthquake devastated the city in 61 AD, opting instead to rebuild the city from their own coffers. This city was a center for finance, medicine, and manufacturing, and it had a large Jewish population. However, despite its wealth and influence, the church in Laodicea received a stern rebuke from the Risen Christ.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the seven churches in Asia Minor and has nothing good to say about the church in Laodicea. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” The Risen Christ’s condemnation of the church in Laodicea was not because of its wealth or prosperity but because of its indifference to God.
Laodicea’s prosperity was due in part to its clothing trade. The city was famous for the soft, glossy, violet black wool of the sheep that grazed around it. The citizens of Laodicea produced outer garments in abundance for the surrounding world. The city was also home to a great medical school that was famous for special ear and eye salves.
Laodicea had a large Jewish population, and the governor of the province became alarmed at the amount of currency the Jews were exporting in payment of the Temple tax, which every male Jew paid. In 62 BC, the governor put an embargo on the export of currency, and there were few areas where the Jews were wealthier and more influential.
Despite their wealth and influence, the church in Laodicea was indifferent to God. The Risen Christ unsparingly condemns indifference, as noted by William Barclay, who said, “The one attitude that the Risen Christ unsparingly condemns is indifference.” The church in Laodicea felt secure in its own wealth but was completely unaware of its own poverty.
The church in Laodicea serves as a warning to all Christians who prioritize material wealth over their relationship with God. If all a person has to meet life with is financial wealth, they are poor indeed. However, if a person has a faith tried and refined in the crucible of experience, there is nothing that they cannot face, and they are rich indeed.
Barclay, William. The Revelation of John. Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
Tacitus. Annals. Book 14, chapter 27.
“Laodicea.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2023.
“The Church in Laodicea.” Bible Hub, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2023.