Yeah, who likes lukewarm people? We can fully understand why Jesus would rip these people for not being passionate about their faith. This is a passage that makes many of us feel a little uncomfortable because maybe we’re not committed enough ourselves. But there’s always been something about this passage that I’ve found a little puzzling. Why would Jesus say, “I wish you were either one or the other”? I would expect him to say, “I wish you were hotter, more passionate.” Would Jesus really want them to be cold in their faith? That’s what the verse says, but that doesn’t make much sense. Surely God doesn’t want us to be cold to him.
The reason is explained in the context of the next verse. Verse 17 says, “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.” The problem was that they were wealthy and complacent. They had their money, they were comfortable and they were happy with that. In Jesus’ view they were poor, blind and pitiful, because what they lacked was being “rich in good deeds” as Paul instructed the wealthy to be in 1 Timothy 6:18.
I believe Jesus was warning in these verses about being complacent. This is a caution to those who have it good in this world, for they find it terribly easy to care more about their own comfort than about serving God and ministering to others. They can easily become lukewarm water that is not of much help to anyone. This surely is a challenge to us today, for in the eyes of the world we are rich and have all we need. It is all too tempting to get caught in the trap of being preoccupied with simply feathering our nest. In so doing we become the lukewarm water that Jesus clearly found unappealing. This reminds me that while God has been good to many of us in giving us an abundance of the world’s goods, that abundance is a test. Will we be distracted and lulled to sleep by it, or will we use it to care for others in the name of Christ?