Acts 19:23-41--Riot in Ephesus
Don't you just feel sorry for those poor silversmiths? They thought Paul's preaching was going to ruin their souvenir business because no one would worship Artemis any more...and isn't that strange to think about? It seems difficult to imagine Christianity (The Way, as it was called then) being that big of a threat to just about any kind of business. I mean, Christianity, at least in the U.S., has participated in the commodification of our common life, to the point that there is a "Christian version" of just about every kind of entertainment and "thing" out there! (I mean, we'll draw a line at pornography, I'd say, but we've got music, movies, books--even romance novels--shirts, jewelry, and all kinds of other stuff.) Surely, Christianity is not now a threat to many consumer good-producing businesses, at least in this country. Perhaps it should be...
Anyway, as one of my readers notes, Acts 19:32 might characterize many of the meetings we have in the church today. It's interesting that one upset silversmith could get the people worked up to the extent that they came and rioted, but many of them had no idea why!
Verses 35-40 are a nice change from previous stories in Acts. For once, a local official stops the crowd and calms them down, instead of just doing what they want and arresting Paul. The magistrate pretty much says, "Let's be sensible and do this the legal way, guys." My study Bible makes this note: "The Jewish historian Josephus reports that Jewish custom didn't permit slandering other gods or defiling their temples." The people of Ephesus could rest assured, then, that Paul wasn't really trying to preach against Artemis. I guess they probably didn't know much about Jewish customs, though, so they wouldn't have known that.
What would it be like if Christians actually preached and followed the gospel, to the extent that it would threaten the livelihoods of those whose wealth comes at the expense of others' well-being? How many of us and those who are active in our churches would have to make changes in the ways we use our money, what we buy, and how we treat others?