About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 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. 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.” Acts 19:23-27 ESV
The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them. Psalm 135:15-18 ESV
Do you remember Daniel, a Jewish man who held a high position as a captive in Babylon? There’s a story that the Babylonians had a god named Bel, and every day the Babylonians fed it 12 bushels of fine flour, 40 sheep, and 50 gallons of wine. King Cyrus, the Persian, worshiped this god every day, and he couldn’t understand why Daniel wouldn’t worship a god that ate and drank so much all the time. Daniel just laughed and said that he would never worship a god made of clay and brass. So the king and Daniel agreed to test Bel. The king would set out the food and wine for the idol, and lock the doors of the temple. So they did that, but Daniel had dusted the floor around the idol with flour. The next day the king unlocked the door and showed Daniel that all the food and wine was gone, but Daniel pointed to many footprints in the flour on the floor. It turned out that the priests of Bel and their families had been coming in every night through a secret trapdoor and eating and drinking all the food and wine themselves! The priests of Bel served the idol because of the way it provided for them and their families.
This is only a story, but it’s a little like what happened in Ephesus after many people became Christians and burned their magic books. A silversmith named Demetrius called all the other silversmiths together and got them really angry with Paul. Demetrius said that if people stopped worshiping the goddess Artemis, then no one would buy their silver idols of Artemis anymore, and that would put them out of business. The temple of Artemis might also fall into disrepair and be abandoned. Did the silversmiths actually believe that Artemis was real? They might have, but what it seemed they were really worried about was losing money and losing their way of making a living. For them the goddess gave them a way of providing for their families even as their businesses led many people into the darkness of the false goddess.
Sometimes we’re also tempted to make a living in ways that bring dishonor to God. We might not make silver idols, but perhaps we do things that are dishonest or hurtful to others. We might try to justify ourselves by saying that we need the money to support ourselves and our families, but for God that’s not an excuse. It really shows that we don’t trust that he will take care of his people, but instead think it’s all up to us to provide for ourselves in any way we can. Jesus came to die on the cross to make us God’s children, and since our Heavenly Father provided Jesus for us, we can also trust him to provide him with everything else that we need. He forgives us for our greed and dishonesty, and gives us ways to work that serve the needs of ourselves and others and bring glory to him.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for providing us what we need, for giving us work to do, and for giving us Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.
Bel and the Dragon