“For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:” (Acts 19:24–26, AV)
Right after the Lord saved me, I heard of a Christian exhibition in Chicago. So, my wife and I decided to go. It was kind of a trade show, with booths and venders selling their wares. Interspersed there were also booths of various ministries presenting how they were impacting the world. At the time, I was kind of in awe with what I saw and experienced. The vendors were selling all kinds of Christian paraphernalia, clothing, toys, study aids, books, you name it. As I think back on it now, I wonder if in all of this, can we miss the point? Have we or might we fall into the trap of commercialism without knowing it?
Commercialism is a trap and it is part of the world system. The issue is not selling or even marketing things. The stuff the vendors sold at the show did have a useful purpose. However, the issue is the force behind what we are doing.
In Ephesus, Paul’s preaching was bearing fruit. The gospel was transforming the lives of many people and this transformation threatened the status quo. Such was the case of a silversmith, named Demetrius and a group of tradesmen who made their livelihood by making and selling artifacts and idols connected with a false god named Artemis. Demetrius and the others felt threatened by the gospel because those transformed by the gospel would no longer worship the false god, which was the source of their livelihood. They perceived this as a threat to their business and the culture at large (v27). What resulted was paramount to a riot in the city (v28, ff.).
Were these men’s fears warranted? We must conclude that they were, at least from their perspective. For these craftsmen, they depended on their religion, the worship of Artemis and the temple for their income. The temple of Artemis served as a bank as well as a temple and many from the known world deposited their funds there. Ephesus was also a place where there was an annual festival in honor of Artemis, that brought many to the city. The worship of Artemis was a vital part of the city’s economic status and especially for the craftsmen who made money fabricating silver shrines of the goddess.
The issue with what these craftsmen were doing was threefold. First, their religion was false. It was manmade and so was their worship. It was empty because there really was no such goddess. Artemis could do nothing. Second, their real god was their bank accounts. They were in it for the money and to that end, they would do what was needed to maintain their market. Thirdly, their desire for money caused them to stir up a riot in order to stop what they perceived as the competition. They did not want to lose business.
What is the point for us? We must be very careful in Christianity. We have the privilege of being able to purchase so many things that will help us in our Christian life and ministry. However, we must check to ensure that our motivation for what we are doing is not driven by principles of the world system. What we do should never be for personal gain, which is not just for money. This world system drives not just on materialism, but prestige, power and personal glorification. Let us examine ourselves and turn from the world’s ways.