The Blessing or Curse of Wealth

Acts 19:21-41

Introduction

The Apostle Paul has been in Ephesus now for about 2 ½ years preaching and teaching in the city and surrounding countryside. The Gospel is beginning to take root and many Ephesians are being saved.

Most scholars view verses 21-22 as an interlude before the narrative of the Ephesian riot. I have a different view of these verses. I see here Luke setting up a contrast between the generosity of the Christian who treasures Christ verses those who worship idols and their view of money. I come to this view as I look to other passages of Scripture where Paul explains what he was doing in Macedonia and Achaia.

Always remember, the Scripture is its best commentary. Once you see why Paul wanted to go through these regions, then it all begins to fit together very nicely.

TT- Wealth can spread Christ’s love or enslave us depending on the focus of our worship
Human need met by text

Acts 19:21-41 (ESV)
21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”
22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.
24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.
25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.
26 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.
27 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.”
28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel.
30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him.
31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.
32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.
34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?
36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.
37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.
38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.
39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.
40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.”
41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

1. The Freedom of Worshipping Christ

Luke takes us into the heart of Paul in the first two verses of our text…21-22.

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”
22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
Paul’s plans are to go back through the existing churches in the regions of Macedonia and Achaia to visit them, to preach and teach, and to do something else.

The Jerusalem church is suffering greatly under the arm of persecution. They have been greatly affected by the aggressive onslaught of the Jews in and around the area. Paul is planning to go through the churches on his way to Jerusalem to collect money to take to Jerusalem to help his fellow Christians who are suffering greatly.

He writes about this later to the Romans…
Romans 15:25-26 (ESV)
25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.
26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.

Paul’s reason to go to Jerusalem was to bring much needed aid to the very poor saints who lived there. He goes on in Romans to explain that the other churches were pleased to give. It blessed their hearts to be able to give, to have the opportunity to give.

Do you see how money is to be used? Believers are called to be good stewards of their money so that they can bless others. Beloved, seek to have a surplus of goods not to hoard but so you will have extra to give to other believers who are in need.

It is in the same context, Paul speaking about gathering support for the Jerusalem believers in 2 Cor. 9 that he gives us many principles of giving.

He writes things like God loves a cheerful giver. This principle was evident as he collected money from the churches to take to Jerusalem. They gave cheerfully. Another principle found in that context is the generosity principle…
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV)
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I can attest to the fact that before we tithed we lived paycheck to paycheck. Now after tithing for years, God is blessing us bountifully.

Give cheerfully, generously, and give sacrificially and watch God keep His promises to you. A Christian can be dirt poor financially and be infinitely rich because Christ is their treasure.

The believer is also very aware of the fact that any wealth they have has come by the hand of God. He has given it to us for the purpose of training us in good stewardship. We use some to meet our needs and we have extra to help meet the needs of others.

This is true love. Remember the biblical definition of love is that true love is a giving love which cares first for the needs of others. We see this type of love very vividly expressed in our Lord’s life toward His people.
Romans 5:8 (ESV)
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We see it in others as we read through God’s Word.

The early church in Paul’s day loved the poor believers in Jerusalem as they gave to them. They gave to other believers because the Jerusalem Christians were in great need.

This is not true for those outside of Christ.

I wanted to go through these principles to set the stage for the world’s view of money. Those who worship idols fight to keep their money because that’s all they have in which to find security.

2. The Slavery of Worshipping Wealth

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.

24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.
25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.
26 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.
27 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.”
28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel.
30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him.
31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.
32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.
34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
In May of each year the Artimeasian Games took place in the region. Many believe that it was that time when this riot took place. This was the time of the year when the silver smiths worked round the clock to produce small replicas of the goddess of Artemis. These small replicas were worn around their necks or around their wrists. There was, however, a problem. Sales were down drastically. The normal crowds that entered the Temple of Artemis were a mere fraction of what they once were. Sales were down, profits were down, and wealth was down.

There in lies the problem and the source of the mobs anger…money

Wealth was the god whom the silversmiths worshipped. Their love for money was the reason they stirred up the crowd and incited the mob.

“Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.

Christ is bad for business when the business is funded by idol worship. The true Gospel will always create issues when it is introduced into society, always. This corrupt demonic system cannot tolerate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ve seen that the Word of the Lord is making progress as the Good News spreads across Asia. But progress takes place out of persecution. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is no friend to the world. The world hates Jesus and hates the message of the cross and hates Christ’s followers…we cannot be friends with the world. We must separate ourselves from it. Paul and his team penetrated society with the Gospel and when they did some joined them and became their friends and companions but Paul never was a friend or close associate with the lost.

Notice the confusion that is expressed among this mindless mob…

29 So the city was filled with the confusion,

32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

They didn’t even know what they were doing there. It was a crowd being manipulated by a few selfish leaders. All these idolaters were slaves to Artemis. This false goddess was calling the shots and it was a dead statue. These people have forfeited their ability to think and reason as they bowed down to this dead idol.

I hope together we can see the huge difference between Christ’s followers who treasure Him and use their wealth to spread Christ’s love verses these pagan idolaters whose God is their wealth which is used for their own selfish purposes and which they find their livelihood.

I find it astounding how that even the leader of this silver guild gives us an accurate account of the work of Christ in and around the city…
26 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.
Demetrius has given us a short but accurate account of the spread of the Gospel in Asia.

3. The Danger of Trusting Politics

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?
36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.
Politicians are no friends of the church.   It may seem. At first glance, that the town clerk was taking up for the church. All he cared about was the wrath of Rome that would come crashing down on Ephesus should this riot continue. If there were uncontrolled riots Rome would intercede very quickly. They would, no doubt install their own leaders who could keep the peace. So, the town clerk only wanted to keep the peace so he could keep his job. He is a typical Politician…
36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.
40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today
4. The Power of the Gospel

37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.
38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.
39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.
40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.”
41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
Notice with me that the Christians did not speak badly about or toward those in Ephesus or even about the false goddess Artemis.
People will never trust Christ and be saved if all we do is tell them how foolish they are for how they are living. Here are people that Paul and the others had been around for almost three years in the city. The worshippers went in to the Temple of their false goddess and worshipped a dead statue. Paul and the others never said anything negative to them…
37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.
This should be a reminder to us that we must never speak negatively toward anyone who is lost. We must not condemn them or make fun of them in any way.

This reminds me of times when I’ve seen Christians march on city hall, as it were, condemning all the ills of society. This will never change anyone. The result of this kind of action is to have people look at you as if you’re nuts.

Paul and his team never held picket signs up saying Artemis can’t think and neither can you!
They simply preached the Gospel Of Jesus Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to work and when people were converted, and then they behaved in a way that brought God glory. We cannot manipulate lost people. We can speak the Gospel to them and lead them to Jesus.
We cannot expect lost people to act like saved people. Only the Gospel will change people not an overly zealous mislead Christian.
We’ve seen how money and wealth has an affect on people. It can be used to spread the love of Christ to others or it can take hold of us. How are you using the wealth God has entrusted to you? Are you loving others or loving yourself with money? One principle we see here is that one’s attachment to money is directly proportional to one’s attachment to idols.

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