23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Talk about a sign of success! Paul could have preached against Artemis. He could have stood out front of the giant statue and temple and passed out fliers and yelled through his bullhorn about how stupid Artemis was and how stupid people were that believed in her.
But we don’t have a record of him doing that.
And the claim that he is saying “gods made with hands are not gods” was the same Jewish message that had been around for 2,000 years. Good job, Moses.
Maybe it was just one customer with a big mouth. Maybe it was a whole group or a few people that made Demetrius miss his monthly quota. Whatever it was, something put some fear into him that this was a big deal. This Jesus thing was a hit and was only going to grow and hurt his business.
It’s great how Luke exposes their motives as he tells the story. They bring up the fact that if people quit buying silver idols, it will hurt their business. They won’t have as much money and they may have to get another job. “Too bad,” you can picture others replying. “The job market changes, and you have to change with it.”
But then Demetrius appeals to something deeper than greed. Ephesus was really proud of their Artemis. They were known as THE place to worship Artemis (or Diana by her Roman name) for hundreds of years. This is like preaching against apple pie, baseball, hot dogs, and nachos with liquid cheese all at the same time.
What I love the most about this is that this is a tertiary effect of the Gospel. Paul didn’t rally with Rome to make Artemis worship illegal. It happened organically. As more and more people follow Jesus, bad stuff fails simply because of lack of interest, not because it was made illegal. It’s like the church that developed their own payday-check cashing program that included financial counseling. All of the paycheck loan places in that town went out of business. They didn’t make predatory lending illegal. The church simply offered a better alternative.
As we preach the good news of Jesus Christ, the rotten alternative is often obvious. We don’t have to focus on the details of the rotten, evil ways. We can do what the author of Hebrews told us to do: Set our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfector of our faith. Following Him makes everything better, one way or another.
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