I Fine You Fifty Cents!
One night during the Depression, New York’s famous mayor Fiorello La Guardia was presiding in night court when a man was found guilty of stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Abiding by the law, La Guardia fined the man ten dollars, which the accused could not afford. La Guardia then took ten dollars out of his pocket, paid the fine himself, and fined everyone in the courtroom fifty cents for living in a city where a poor man must steal bread in order to feed his family. La Guardia then gave the forty dollars collected to the bread thief.
Was strict justice done? Perhaps not. But what kind of fine would God mete out to us today having tremendous resources yet missing the point of greatest need?
In these days that have all the characteristics of the last days, I believe Christ is calling His Church back to Himself, just as He did to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1–7. The church at Ephesus had the opportunity to be the church God desired them to be, and so do we.
The church at Ephesus was a hotbed of every false religion and superstition, yet God planted a church there that became a powerful Gospel light throughout Asia.
First, God issued forth a call, calling the church back to His Lordship. In this passage, Christ is revealing Himself to the churches, reproving them, loving them, and ministering among them in every way.
Secondly, God gives a commendation, calling back His church for the sake of the life of the church (v.2). The Lord of the church knows its life, thus He commends the Ephesian church for its strong characteristics: its activity, labor, patience, sensitivity to evil, spiritual discernment, endurance, and determination (vv. 2–3).
In light of this list of commendations, the church at Ephesus was a great church! It possessed many commendable qualities, but it still needed to be called back to Christ because it lacked its first love (v. 4). They were not experiencing the love of God as they once had, something that can happen to any Christian.
Finally, God gives a command, calling His church back for the lessons we must learn. A church can sin away its opportunity (v. 5) and Christ can remove the church as a testimony for the Gospel. This is more than a fifty-cent fine, isn’t it?
The one thing that Jesus wants for His Church above all else is love. What makes the Church the moving, mighty, meaningful body of Christ Jesus is its love! The good news is that love can be renewed in our hearts.
This is what verse 5 truly means: Remember . . . repent . . . and do. Remember when you first began your new life in Christ. Repent and realize the need in your life, confess your wrongs, and turn your life back over to Christ. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with love. Do the first works in the power of the Spirit and return to the Lord.
Christ calls His Church to make sure things are right with Him and with those in our lives. May the Lord renew our first love.