Text: Acts 19:1-41, Luke 3:16, Ephesians 6:12
I’ve been spending a lot of time in New York City lately, and I love it. People there are beautiful and stylish, moving at a pace that seems faster than humanly possible. You get the feeling that everyone is on an important mission, chasing their dream and making it happen. The energy is intoxicating.
But there’s also a sense that it’s all hanging in a very tight balance. Life in the commercial center of the world is expensive, fast, and hard. The margins are slim between living and not being able to make rent. That energy is fraught with anxiety, loneliness, and an underlying fear that it all could slip away.
This is the world Paul stepped into when he arrived in Ephesus.
Located in the far western corner of modern-day Turkey, Ephesus was the epicenter of the Mediterranean. The city’s theater had capacity for 25,000 people and the temple of the goddess Artemis towered over the city, nearly four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. This was a place to see and be seen. A place to live your dreams. And Paul wasn’t just passing through; he moved in.
Unlike his peers in the city, Paul had no economic agenda. Genuine and unassuming, he was a person people wanted to be around because he wasn’t there to leverage every relationship into a better job or status. He just wanted the Ephesians to know the Truth. It was only a matter of time before someone realized they were staring at a serious economic opportunity.
Sceva’s sons name-dropped with the best of them, hoping to ride Paul’s and Jesus’ momentum to fame and fortune. They were enamored with the miracles, but not with the One who made them possible.
In the oddest way, I love the evil spirits’ response to their half-hearted healing (Acts 19:14-15). Even demons believe in God and shudder (James 2:19), but speaking His name is powerless unless you truly know Him.
After this violent encounter, a wellspring of believers realized their own mistake with the prosperity gospel. Convicted and impassioned to make a change, they made a public display of their repentance, setting aflame 50 thousand drachmas—the equivalent of 136 years’ worth of work. A huge portion of Ephesus’ GDP.
Clearly, that shift in values didn’t sit well with everyone in the city. As more Ephesians fell in love with Jesus, the silversmith, Demetrius feared for his livelihood, the future of the temple, and the future of his city. Perhaps he was driven by more than money, or maybe he wasn’t. Regardless, Demetrius chose to riot rather than repent.
Haven’t we all?
Has God ever messed with your economy?
It isn’t easy to let go of our jobs, our money, or our city. Those things feel like life. But God loves us too much to let money be our god, to let fame lure us away from Truth, or let us live a life of name-dropping, rather than heart-knowing.
Is it possible that Jesus was calling Demetrius to abandon his meaningless silver souvenirs, into a more creative life? Did fear kidnap his chance to be the artist God created him to be?
One thing is certain. Jesus promises us a full, abundant life—greater than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). His whisper is honest and true. There’s more, beloved. There’s more.
It waits for you on the other side of the fire.
Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.