The weight of poverty was very real, but for the church in Smyrna, it was only one weight, when Jesus addressed another that had been added:
Slander (Revelation 2:9b) I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
The Jews in Smyrna were both by race and religion Jewish, they had been circumcised, followed the customs of their forefathers, but Paul highlights their problem in Romans 2:29—They were a scarecrow– But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God….Jesus doesn’t hold back any punches because the Jews had worked out a deal with Rome. They had an exemption, a pass on sacrifices to the emperor; they got to worship Yahweh. If you ever had that experience of finding a really good deal—maybe even a misprint in an ad and if you are the only one to point it out to the company they usually will honor it, but if everyone figured it out they quickly put the brakes on it, and everyone loses the great deal. The Jews were worried they are about to lose their exemption because these Christians need one too, and the last thing they want to do is be associated with the Christians. The Christians were being accused of taking the body of blood of Christ literally at their love feasts—cannibals and orgies—“free love”, they were accused of hating their families because they called each other brothers and sisters. The slander reigned down from all sectors.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth, oldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt remarked, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me.” Slander is pretty normal on the political circuit, or junior high lunch room, and it can be targeted at almost anyone. Famous preacher Charles Spurgeon and his wife, according to a story in the Chaplain Magazine, had a number of chickens that produced quite a number of eggs. They started selling the eggs to whoever was interested, but they wouldn’t give any eggs away. Family members and relatives found that they were no exception to the rule, even they had to pay for the eggs and with time the rumors and slander started floating around as word got around. Some people said, “Charles Spurgeon who makes a good living is greedy, his wife is grasping after every dollar she can get.” What many people would never know, but never got out until after Mrs. Spurgeon’s death, was that all the profits from selling eggs didn’t go into the Spurgeon’s pocket, but was used to support two elderly widows. They had felt the pressure, but refused to give in under its weight.
Like it or not, we live in a culture where Christian values are no longer accepted as normal, a world where the Bible has been banned from some libraries as intolerant, where standing up for truth can leave us opening to being cut down by slander—feeling the weight of the pressure—Are you willing to stand for life in a culture of death, willing to fight for wholeness in a world feeding off brokenness? The people in Ephesus—who were rich in Christ—were willing to withstand the pressure, to be cut down to size so Christ could take up more space–made whole by the Resurrection and the Life? Imprinted far deeper into the image of Christ–Jesus told us “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.”