You’ve got to hand it to Demetrius – when the silversmith in Ephesus wanted to get some people with him to oppose Paul and his message, he knew just what to say:
“Men, you know from this business we have our wealth.” Acts 19:25 (ESV)
Oh, Demetrius would go on to say that the goddess Artemis was great and should not be deposed from her throne and blah, blah, blah. But he had them when he brought up their wallets. If this Jesus would continue to be preached, their lucrative business of making silver shrines was going to go up in smoke, and thus, before you know it a riot had broken out.
And it all started with concern for cash.
It’s an instructive scene when it is compared to the story right before it – new believers had come together bringing their books of magic arts and burning them up before everyone. And someone, watching this happen, made a fast calculation: “We are burning up books worth a total of 50,000 silver pieces!” Incredible.
There is an important lesson to all this – one of the indistinguishable marks of a Christ-follower is that he or she thinks of money differently and handles it differently than non-believers. Jesus told us it would be this way…
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
Why is it that I cannot serve two masters? Because when it comes down to it, I will always look to my “Master” for two things: security, and significance. And if I find these things in money, I won’t look for them in Christ.
The man who finds security in money will prize a big bank account, forsaking God and His Kingdom to get it. The woman who finds significance in possessions will want the latest clothes and the nicest car and the finest house so that others will know just “who” she is. What about the church and kingdom causes? Eh, he or she would say, “Let’s not be legalistic.”
And the end result is that Christ is forsaken.
But when we see that we have all the significance we need in Him – after all, He has loved us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place – then money loses its hold. And when we realize that we have complete security in Him – in this life and in eternity – then we will want to serve Him, not money, with all our hearts.
So, how do you win this battle to serve God, not money? The first and most important way is to become a Christian. The view of everything in your life will change when you are in Christ. His love and His promises will transform where you look for significance and security. “Book burning” follows naturally. But after this, remember that true Christians are still tempted to find significance and security in money. At least I am. And one of the time-honored, Scripture-tested ways of continuing to serve God not money is by intentionally serving Him with your money…by being generous toward others and toward His Kingdom.
On Monday, March 9: Acts 20