“I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16b).
This spitting out passage, which comes from Christ’s letter to the Laodiceans, is sometimes used to terrorize the bride of Christ. “Fail to perform and the Lord will reject you. If you’re not on fire, you’ll be in the fire!” Such an evil line is a million miles from the gracious heart of the One who is faithful and true.
Who will Jesus spew out? Not members of his own body.
Some Bibles translate Jesus’ words as, “You make me want to vomit.” Have you ever vomited up a kidney or a toe? It’s a ridiculous notion, yet this is what some fear will happen. “Jesus vomits body parts.” Thankfully, this horrendous picture is refuted by scripture:
The one who comes to me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to me]. (John 6:37, AMP)
Since Jesus will never reject those who come to him, who is in danger of being spit out? Those who are too proud to come.
Who will be rejected by Christ’s mouth? It is those who deny their need for Jesus. “Those who deny me before men, I will deny before my Father.” Jesus is talking about self-righteous hypocrites who scorn grace.
He is not talking about Christians.
What makes Jesus sick?
Perhaps you’ve heard that sin makes Jesus nauseous. It’s not true. Jesus is the friend of sinners. When he walked the earth, he hung out with sinners and ate with them. Sin is no problem for the Lord, for his grace can cure all sin. But grace cannot deal with self-righteousness because the self-righteous won’t have it.
What makes Jesus sick? The self-righteous mindset that says, “I don’t need a thing from you Jesus. You died for nothing.”
In one of the best sermons on self-righteousness, Spurgeon explained the problem:
A self-righteous man does not and cannot trust Christ, and therefore he cannot see the face of God. None but the naked man will ever go to Christ for clothing; none but the hungry man will ever take Christ to be his food; none but thirsty souls will ever come to this well of Bethlehem to drink. The thirsty are welcome; but those who think they are good, are welcome neither to Sinai nor to Calvary. They have no hope of heaven, no peace in this world, nor in that which is to come.
The Laodiceans were full of themselves and exceedingly religious. They were a church of Pharisees and peacocks. They prayed puffy patronizing prayers that would make you sick to hear them, and their bulletin board was a self-aggrandizing montage of all their good deeds (see Matt. 6:2,5). Their sermons were self-help soliloquies, and their testimonies were all variations on the tune of, “I did it my way.”
If you were to ask the Laodiceans why they did what they did, they would pontificate on the importance of charity and duty. “When one has been blessed as I have, one feels a certain obligation to give back to society.” Their motives were nauseating.
Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”… (Rev. 3:17a)
For the first and only time in the Bible, we hear the Laodiceans speak, and in their few words we hear arrogance, self-assurance, and a vigorous streak of Adamic independence. Theirs is the boast of the self-made man.
The nauseating language of self-righteousness
“I am rich.” If you met a Laodicean at a party, the first thing you would notice was their affluence. Like the Pharisees, the Laodiceans were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Wealth was their scorecard, the indisputable proof of their accomplishments. “I am rich because I have kept the rules and earned God’s favor. My prosperity is a sign of God’s pleasure with me.” The Laodiceans were winners in the game of life, and they knew it.
“I have become wealthy.” There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, for Abraham, David, Joseph and many godly people had wealth. But the Laodiceans boasted that they had become wealthy. They were poor, but now they were rich and all credit went to themselves. “Look at how we have turned ourselves around.” Their self-commendation reminds us of Ephraim’s boast:
I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin. (Hosea 12:8, NIV)
In the same way that failure can lead to despair, success can foster pride and self-righteousness.
“I have need of nothing.” The goal of the self-made life is to stand on one’s own feet and to live without aid. In this, the Laodiceans had spectacularly succeeded. They were go-getters whose products were known around the world. Nothing could hinder their driving ambition. Not even natural disasters.
In AD60, one of those earthquakes that afflict Anatolia from time to time, flattened several cities including Laodicea. When Rome offered to assist in the rebuild, the Laodiceans refused. They boasted, “We have need of nothing.” Unlike the Sardians and Philadelphians, the Laodiceans fixed themselves. Structures built with local funds were stamped with the proud inscription, “out of our own resources.” Lesser cities like Sardis might need aid, but not the self-sufficient Laodiceans. And therein lay the problem.
Grace is heavenly aid, but the self-sufficient don’t need it. “We have need of nothing.” Their pride will not let them receive what God offers. To ask for help would be an admission of failure. “Grace is for losers, not winners like us.”
But even though the Laodiceans stank of self-righteousness, Jesus still loves them. His message to them is the same for all of us who think we are winners in life:
All this boasting about yourselves and your achievements—if you weren’t preaching cheap law you’d realize you have nothing to boast about. You are bearing false witness against yourselves. I am the true Witness and I say you’re poor, naked, and wretched. Want to be truly rich? Then buy what I’m selling. Make me your everlasting treasure. Want to be clothed? Receive the garments of my righteousness. Want to see? Allow me to open the eyes of your understanding. Want to do business? Then do business with me. You act like you don’t need anyone, but I long for you. You shut everyone out, but here I stand, knocking on your door, hoping you’ll let me in.
This article was extracted and adapted from Letters from Jesus.
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