I’ve been thinking about a cloak recently. There was nothing inherently special about it, it was just another piece of clothing that was worn during the times of Jesus, and which is still being worn today in certain parts of the world, but it was a cloak which in the twilight of his life Paul asked Timothy to bring to him because winter was approaching and the weather was turning. Paul had left this cloak with a man Carpus at Troas, and now he needed it for warmth.
The more I ponder this cloak, and the implications thereof, the more disgust is stirred up in me toward many of today’s so called evangelists, teachers, self proclaimed prophets, and apostles.
We are taught by many in today’s avarice driven society that coming to Jesus is like winning the lottery. You raise a hand, you say a prayer, then you buy yourself the biggest wheelbarrow you can find, and just start hauling sacks and sacks of new, crisp, never circulated hundred dollar bills for as long as your legs will carry you. If you need to take a break, why there’s always some island somewhere with palatial suites, twenty four hour room service, and a beautiful ocean view where you as an ‘apostle prophet evangelist teacher’ can rest for a couple weeks, every couple weeks (hauling wheelbarrows of money is tiresome business after all) because like American Express used to say, ‘membership has its privileges.’
‘Enough? No such thing! Joy in the Lord? That was before the greenback was introduced into civil society. Come on now, we all know the apostles were filthy rich, we all all know Jesus enjoyed the best of everything in life.’
Trust me I’ve heard every cliché in the book and then some. From the ever popular ‘we are the head and not the tail’, to ‘riches here are just a down payment for all the riches we’ll have in heaven’, and these are just a couple of the ‘nice ones’ the ones that don’t guilt you into sending a guy with two jet planes and a fleet of luxury cars your last few cents because ‘you’re robbing God’ if you don’t.
No matter how they try to minimize it however, no matter how much they would like to do away with the Word of God which contradicts their inventive, greedy and heretical doctrines, it still stands, and within its pages we see glimpses of the lives of the Apostles, glimpses of the life of Christ that suggests these men were not by any stretch of the imagination rich, well off, or rolling in shekels.
I know, I know, brother Jesse said Jesus was rich because He had a custom made, seamless robe, and the soldiers even cast lots for it. By the time Jesus was nailed to the cross, having walked the Via Dolorosa, having been whipped bloody, and having had a crown of thorns placed upon His head, that robe was in no shape to ever be worn again. The soldiers cast lots for sport, out of boredom, having to wait there until those nailed to the crosses eventually expired in agony. What fools we become when we let greed get the better of us!
In 2 Timothy chapter 4, we see that an aging Paul writes to Timothy to bring him a cloak he had left behind on one of his journeys. We see the great Apostle of Christ abandoned by all but Luke, we see him cold, and in prison, and even from his cell, he is doing his best to encourage the church. It was only after he made certain that the preaching of the gospel would have continuity through Timothy that he asked him to bring his cloak.
‘Well it was his fault, he didn’t believe in the prosperity gospel!’
To be honest, Paul, formerly known as Saul, was groomed for the prosperity gospel. His upbringing, his education, ensured that he would be a Pharisee, and since the religious system ruled the land in those times, one could easily compare a Pharisee in Paul’s day to a Senator today. The man had already been accepted into the Sanhedrin having graduated from the most prestigious theological school of the time. The Pharisees were the power brokers of the time, they were the bankers of the time, they were the most influential citizens of Israel, and as such they were among some of the richest men in the land. It wasn’t simply a title Paul gave up when he met Christ on the road to Damascus, it wasn’t simply a name that he surrendered, it was the entire system of corruption, greed and avarice that had become the religious system of that time.
Lest we forget, Paul was also a Roman citizen, and in those days a Roman citizen could travel as he pleased, wherever he pleased, he was single, well educated, on his way to a great career and much wealth, yet one moment changed his life, and here he was, in the twilight of his existence asking a young Timothy to please bring him the cloak he had left behind in Troas.
‘Perhaps the cloak had sentimental value brother Mike; maybe that’s why he wanted it.’
Seeing as this is the selfsame man who said, ‘indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ’, I highly doubt sentimentality played any role in Paul’s desire to have his cloak returned to him. The man was cold, and it was getting colder, and because of this he remembered he once had a cloak that he had left behind on one of his journeys, and if he had it he could use it to cover his shivering body in a damp prison cell.
We have so skewed the perception of servant hood in this present generation, we have so butchered and remade it to our own liking that we have come to believe that a servant is entitled to being served.
What pains me most of all when I look back on the final days of Paul the Apostle of Christ, is that shortly after requesting that Timothy bring him his cloak, the man died alone, all the brothers in Rome having abandoned him. What happened to all those individuals he named in Romans 16? What became of Priscilla and Aquilla, or Amplias his beloved in the Lord? What became of Urbanus and Herodion? Where were they in Paul’s time of need?
2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.”
So what is my point in all this? My point is simple, even elementary, but one that much of today’s church seems to have forgotten. Serving God is not about fame, serving God is not about popularity, serving God is not about fortune, it is not about accolades, nor is it about being embraced by as many believers as possible. Serving God is about setting our gaze upon Christ and pursuing Him exclusively even when everyone abandons us, even when we end up cold and alone in a prison cell writing out final letter.
The question ought not to be ‘what do I get if I follow after Jesus?’ but rather ‘am I willing to give up everything that I may follow after Him!’
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.