Read: Acts 19
Reflect: Financial woes. We hear about it a lot these days. Loss of jobs, loss of industry, loss of savings, and the collapse of investments. It’s nothing new. It’s one thing to have different viewpoints, but when it affects one’s wallet, nasty things can happen. When the Holy Spirit got to work in the city of Ephesus, change took place and riots occurred.
The Apostle Paul traveled to this major city. After three months he wore his welcome mat at the local synagogue. Paul then took his students with him and found another classroom in town, the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This seemed to go well for two years. It was the longest Paul ever stayed in one place during all of his missionary journeys.
A STORM WAS BREWING
However, a storm was brewing on the horizon. Let’s see what was in the wallets of the city of Ephesus. So many people were coming to Christ that the local economy was being affected. A riot is recorded that was led by Demetrius, a silversmith. What’s art got to do with a riot? We know historically that Ephesus’ wealth was built on a combination of religion and tourism. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world existed in Ephesus, a temple to the goddess Artemis (also known as Diana). The sale of idols and all things related to Artemis was a crucial portion of the economy. Even the banking industry was significantly linked to the worship of Artemis. The Temple of Artemis was a major treasury and bank of the ancient world. Merchants, kings and cities made deposits there because they thought their money would be kept safe under the protection of Artemis.
What made Demetrius and others incensed was that their livelihoods were being affected by the growing number of converts to “The Way” (that’s what they called early Christians). A modern-day TV commercial asks, “What’s in your wallet?” If asked, the business community of Ephesus would have angrily responded, “Not a whole lot and it is due to the followers of The Way.”
PEOPLE’S WALLETS WERE BEING HURT
So, we see an economic shift. In a letter from that time period, a Roman official named Pliny wrote to another official named Trajan, describing how people were not going to the shrines of Artemis anymore because of Christian influence. Those Followers of the Way were making waves. The major money maker, the Temple of Artemis, was losing money, the business people who made and sold products related to the worship of Artemis were losing money and the investors were withdrawing their money from the banks that had supposedly been protected by Artemis. People’s wallets were being hurt because of the Gospel changing people’s hearts. That’s a key factor for the riots in Ephesus. The Holy Spirit was toppling strongholds.
STRONGHOLDS WHICH CAN DRAW US AWAY
The same thing happens today when people come to Christ or else dormant believers finally make Christ their first love. All that money invested in things which formerly pulled them away from God finds a new home in Christ. New priorities are made. In our culture, there are various strongholds which can draw us away from Christ. A practical way of measuring where one’s heart is can be discovered by pulling out a bank statement. Where has your money been going to? What especially has captured your heart? Is the owner of your wallet Jesus Christ? Do you need to get that bank statement and lay it before the Throne of Christ? And I think you need to ask that question, “What’s in your wallet?”