“a silversmith named demetrius, who made silver shrines of artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. he called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “men, you know we receive a good income from this business. and you see and hear how this fellow paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in ephesus and in practically the whole province of asia. he says that man-made gods are no gods at all. there is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” when they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “great is artemis of the ephesians!” (acts 19.24-28)
sometime in the mid-50’s AD (not 1950’s, just 50’s), paul – while traveling around the mediterranean sea starting churches – visited ephesus, one of the great cities of the ancient world, complete with its temple to artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the world. while there, he called people out for worshiping and serving idols – gods that don’t exist. this really hacked off demetrius, who made his living through the idolatry of others. he made little silver relics that represented artemis, the city’s official ‘deity’ and number one tourist attraction. paul saw their obsession with artemis and let them know boldly that there was no artemis, only Jesus. it was a gutsy move, as it led to a riot and citywide confusion, in which the angry people of ephesus dragged paul before an official, seeking to get him killed or at least tossed out of town.
2000 years later, things are much the same. here we are, having had the truth of the gospel taught throughout our land for well over 200 years, and yet you and i still have our idols – our non-gods who we allow to be god over us – and we can still get pretty bent out of the frame when someone challenges us on them.
but paul was right. they are not gods. there are no other gods. only Jesus.
this story needs to challenge us today to identify our idols, and to get rid of them. angry defense of things in our lives that rank above god have no place in the lives of Christ-followers. this isn’t to say that material things, or relationships, or goals or aspirations, or education, or fun are evil. but if they are our obsession; if they take first place in our lives – or better put, if our relationship with and service to God is lessened because of them – then they are idols. plain and simple. if they have achieved some kind of divine status in our lives, they are robbing God of his rightful place.
i encourage you to go back and read through the entire story: acts 19. put yourself in the place of demetrius and his customers. then identify your own idols. pray that God would lessen their force in your life. and start cleaning them out if you need to.
memorize this verse this week…
“I am the LORD: that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with idols.” (isaiah 42.8)