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The Illusion of Self-Sufficiency

• Cedrick Baker

To the church of Laodicea, Jesus spoke harsh words of confrontation because they depended on wealth for their well-being, living under the illusion of self-sufficiency. In our modern world the pursuit of financial gain is a common illusory trap, one that tell us that it will serve as a foundation for our lives, but, in reality, it cannot be trusted. Only God can be the source of true life.

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Laodicea was considered a wealthy city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), located near Colossae and Hierapolis, on an important trade route. It was a center of textile production and banking. Many of the people in this city were well off, including some in the local congregation.

Jesus begins by saying “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” He refers to himself as the “Amen,” as firm, true, certain and unchangeable. This is important because his message to this church stands in contrast to what one might see on the surface. It requires a revelation, an unveiling that shows a hidden truth that is not immediately obvious. This word is an uncovering of deception, an illusion that trapped them in a lie.

In other letters, Jesus states what’s going well in the church. Not here. He wants to vomit them out of his mouth because they are neither hot nor cold. Laodicea lacked its own water supply. It didn’t have access to the cold water from the mountains or hot water from the springs in Hierapolis to the north. They had to pipe in water to the city. By the time it made it to the city, the water was lukewarm and full of sediment. Essentially, Jesus is saying to the church, “Just as you would understand the useless nature of your water being lukewarm, I consider you as a church in that way to me.” This “lukewarm” state allows for love to be professed but not lived out, and promises to be pronounced but not kept. This lukewarm state breeds insincerity and hypocrisy.

Why such harsh words? The people of the church of Laodicea were rich and prosperous materially, but in reality were poor, wretched and naked. Jesus is saying that this church is under an illusion because they were worse off than they thought. They were actually in a poor state, thinking that they were superior, but instead needing mercy.

Today, the Western church is more aligned with the church of Laodicea than we realize. They were absorbing the ways, attitude and culture of their society without pausing to question what they were doing, and this is a temptation for us today.  Romans 12:2 states: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Wealth in this world’s system is a means or pathway to self-sufficiency, whereby we are no longer relying on God. We must refuse to fall prey to the patterns of the wealth that can cause us to live under the illusion that we can take care of ourselves.

Jesus own words seem to take this to another level.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’ (Matthew 19:23-26)

Wealth and resources entrap us into a longing after more, lure us into being entertained by things outside of God’s presence and generate feelings of self-sufficiency. When we experience the love of God revealed in the life and death of Jesus, we can live in the power of God to opt out of this deception. There are three things that can help us to heed the words of Jesus to Laodicea.

First, we must remember that God is our source. Laodicea boasted of their enlightenment. They were not only rich in resources, but they took pride in their knowledge. We must reject the propensity to fall victim to knowledge creating self-sufficiency in us. We can reject the illusion that through knowledge we can fix everything we come up against.

Second, we have a choice to acknowledge the deception and change our ways. Jesus rebukes the church and challenges them to repent of the illusion. The choice is ours to make.

Third, we must practice resisting the pull of wealth. It is easy to trust in money, but that is unreliable. One of the ways that we fight the pull of self-sufficiency is to practice generosity. Our hope lies in Jesus, not in money.

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Topics: Generosity, Money

Sermon Series: Dear Church

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The MuseCast: March 5

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 3:14-22

    ‘And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: ‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’

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One thought on “The Illusion of Self-Sufficiency

  1. Jerry says:

    Cedrick Just loved your sermon.

    This struck me from a sermon “WELL DONE!”

    From the summary:

    In the parable of the Talents, we read how the landowner shared three sums of money with three servants. A talent would be equivalent to what a peasant would have earned in fifteen years. To one servant, he gave five talents, to another he gave two, and to the third he gave one. The first two doubled what had been entrusted to them, while the third acted in fear and buried it.

    The basic takeaway is that God has entrusted us with the spiritual equivalent of bags of gold. We have say-so. We have the power to make a difference, both collectively and individually. What has been entrusted to us is more than most of us realize. Each of us has the potential to influence the world in a Kingdom direction. If God has called you to do something, it is because you are capable of doing it with the power of God’s presence. God believes in us to make an impact, to partner with God to love, and to change the world.

    It is crucial to see this as a privilege, not a burdensome task. This is not a set of rules that we must follow so that we don’t go to hell when we die. If we are motivated by fear rather than love, like the third servant, we won’t take risks because the task is a burden. We just don’t want to make God angry. This religious spirit dominates many today.


    You might say the third servant was lukewarm. Everything in this universe belongs to God. We are his resource managers and God is hoping that with what God has entrusted us with we make our increased return in the kingdom of heaven. You might consider heaven as [hot] and this world [cold].

    The parable states to the 3rd man “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I should have received what was my own with interest”.

    Bank interest is finally back this year I’m getting 5.6%.

    From Data from the Federal Reserve database in St. Louis (FRED), the average yearly return from 1928-2023 for the S&P500 is 12.39% while Real-estate is 5.68%

    Now Cedrick your deck contemplations.

    Rule of 72

    Years to a double 72/5.68 = 13.09090909

    1958 purchase price of the Bachas home I now live $12,000

    Time from purchase to today 2024-1958 [66] years

    Number of doubles 66/13.09 = 5.042016807

    Price today at 5.04 doubles $399,360
    I know of only 1 home ever selling over that at $432,000 having added a large addition with numerous upgrades to include a [DECK].

    As an alternative instead of buying the home you invested the $12,000 in the S&P500

    2024-1958 [66] years

    Number of doubles 66/5.8 = 11.37931034 or $33,914,880
    Note also: there is no insurance, taxes, repairs or improvements.

    I know Cedrick this is somewhat of an extreme but as you said is there a way to use the resources God gives us to manage to accomplish both?

    $12,000 is a small amount so let’s use another example.

    Let’s say early in your career, 21-30, you defer a home purchase and place your 1st fruits, $5000 a year, into a 401k using the S&P500 as your vehicle earning 12.39%.

    In 10 years you will have invested $50,000 and $15,000 would have come from taxes you didn’t have to pay. You stop now and never save another dime using all your income for acquiring stuff and sharing with others.

    Oh by the way had you not invested in the 1st 10 years and elected to put in $5000 a year for the rest of your working career you would never catch up. Not even close.

    That $50,000 would grow tax-deferred until, if you elected, the age of 74 when you would have $24 plus million.

    At this point, you would have a required minimum distribution of almost 1 million dollars. That’s a lot of taxes.

    In America, we have a choice. We can set up a charitable remainder trust and also set up a charitable foundation container for ongoing elections. You do this because the trust itself is irrevocable.


    You set yourself up for yearly payouts let’s say $200,000 plus a 5% increase every year, you can add others, sending the difference to the Foundation. The only taxable event is to non-charitable beneficiaries.

    You could choose to use the RMD schedule to continue until God willing you lived to 94 paying out increasingly to about $10 million in that final year and still have over $100 million remaining in the foundation. All on a $50,000 investment, $15,000 paid by the State/FED.

    Any POOR person who does this becomes RICH in 6 Months | Warren Buffett

    Cedrick I liked this. The assumption if I have it I can do it.

    So who’s is it yours or entrusted from God?

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