In our last reading, Paul was telling the church in Corinth that he was going to come visit them and was asking them to take a collection to help the believers in Jerusalem. He also reminds these Corinthians, “But I will come to you after I have gone through Macedonia – for I will be going through Macedonia – and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you can send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now in passing, since I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a door of great opportunity stands wide open for me, but there are many opponents —I Corinthians 16:5-9
So Paul’s plan was to stay in Ephesus until the day of Pentecost, but something happens to change his mind. Luke tells us now, in Acts l9, what caused him to change these plans:
“At that time a great disturbance took place concerning the Way. This time Jews had not caused the disturbance, but outsiders, and in particular, an idol maker named Demetrius. He had a profitable business, for himself and for others, making silver shrines for Artemis (also know as Diana by the Romans), one of the deities worshipped in Ephesus.
“Now picture this: Demetrius calls a meeting of all the artisans who are similarly employed in idol making. Everyone in the idol industry comes together.
“Demetrius says, “Men, we are all colleagues in this fine line of work. We are making a good living doing what we are doing. But we had better wake up, or we are all going to go broke.
“And you see and hear that this Paul has persuaded and turned away a large crowd, not only in Ephesus but in practically all of the province of Asia [Wow! I guess the Word of God has indeed been prospering], by saying that gods made by hands are not gods at all. There is danger not only that this business of ours will come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be regarded as nothing, and she whom all the province of Asia and the world worship will suffer the loss of her greatness” —Acts 19:23-27
Well how about that! Evidently the silversmiths at Ephesus had been organized into a trade union. And they found that they were being hit hard in the most sensitive part of the human anatomy—the pocketbook.
Years ago I used to hang out with drag-racers. One of them used to have a bumper sticker on his car that said: “Drag racing has made me moderately rich . . . I used to be a millionare.” I’m sure all of us agree that anything that hits us in the financial area always strikes home.
These silversmiths, who made little silver souvenirs of the goddess Artemis, found their business was suffering because so many people were becoming Christians that nobody wanted their shrines anymore. Demetrius, the president of the union, didn’t care about the welfare of the hundreds who had become Christians and had found freedom and peace and joy in Christ. He only saw the red ink in the profit and loss columns of his books, and he was pretty worked up about that. (It’s interesting that archaeologists have found in the ruins of Ephesus an inscription bearing the name of the man, Demetrius) The problem, of course, was that the vested interests in Ephesus were being threatened.
The same thing happens in our day. I know of one city where a church moved into a particular neighborhood—along with the families of its members. When they opened the church, many members began buying homes in the neighborhoods close to the church and the property values, which had suffered in the previous years, finally began to rise. The families moved in, fixed up their homes, took care of their neighbors and created quite a positive stir . . . however, two prominent businesses began to complain—quite vocally, as a matter of fact.
You see, the pornographic book store and adult movie theater’s businesses began to suffer tremendous losses. They wanted the church removed from the area. They went to the Zoning Board to see if Zoning allowed a church in the neighborhood; they frequently complained about the parking lot in the rear of the church, saying that it needed repairs—however, the truth was the parking lot didn’t even belong to the church. It belonged to the owner of the entire strip of stores next to the church, and had desperately needed repairs for years before this. The harassment went on for years. Church members cars were damaged during services; the church building frequently had paint thrown on the outside walls and graffiti frequently needed to be removed. On and on the battle went on.
This was the problem here in Ephesus. Profiteering is nothing new.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts