You’ve probably never heard of Demetrius the Silversmith. No, he’s not a rapper. He was a businessman who lived a long time ago. But, in some ways, it’s like he’s still with us today, using his influence to get things done in the state of Georgia.
Demetrius lived in a place called Ephesus. Ephesus was a large, wealthy city that was home to some 250,000 people. It was what we might today call a progressive city because of all of it’s art, industry and educational opportunities. Above all of that, Ephesus was known for it’s gigantic temple which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This temple was devoted to the worship of a goddess named Artemis.
In Ephesus, worshiping Artemis was big business. It’s the reason why over 20,000 people kept coming back to fill that giant temple. And the reason why people like Demetrius made a good living. He sold little silver gods for people to keep in their homes.
But then some guy named Paul came to town and messed everything up.
And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Acts 19:17-20 (ESV)
A lot of people in Ephesus who used to partake in the national pastime of worshiping Artemis heard the gospel that Paul preached and responded by repenting of their sins. They became new people. The old was gone. Included in that old was all of their Artemis worshiping products. But they didn’t just quit using them. They burned them. The value of what was destroyed was somewhere around $6 million dollars.
That was bad news for our friend Demetrius the Silversmith. He was losing his customers. His reaction shows us that the god he really worshiped was not Artemis. It was money.
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)
Allow me to translate Demetrius for you.
“Hey, these Christians are coming in here and preaching this gospel and it’s cutting into our profits. We can’t just sit back and let them stop our cash flow. And what about our giant temple? If this keeps up, it’ll just sit empty. On top of all of that, this Paul had the nerve to say that our god wasn’t really a god since it was made with hands. What’s with the hate speech? Someone has to put a stop to this.”
All of this kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We still pretty much have the same players – the Christians, the agitated business leader and the angry mob.
When Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the religious liberty bill earlier this week, he didn’t do it because he cares about diversity or the LGBT community. He did it because he didn’t want his state’s brand new temple to be sitting empty on Super Bowl Sunday.
And when Coke and Disney and Hollywood threatened to leave the state if the governor didn’t veto the bill, it’s not because they care so much about LGBT rights. They care about profit. And in this case, just like in Ephesus 2,000 years ago, profit and the Christian message simply could not coexist, if I may borrow a term from the progressive crowd.
The true gospel can never fully coexist with the culture. At some point the two come to odds with one another. When that happens, there are only three options. Either the culture can repent, the gospel crowd can abandon their message or the culture can start a riot and throw the gospel crowd out of town. Or veto them. Whichever is more politically appropriate at the moment.
This week, we found out that the people of the state of Georgia do not have the voice that they thought they had. Even our elected officials don’t have quite as much power as we would like to believe.
The functional leaders of our state, we learned on Monday, are the NFL, Hollywood and Disney. To put it another way, in Georgia, we are being governed by Demetrius the Silversmith.
Earlier in Acts 19 we read an interesting account of seven men who were absolutely humiliated by a demon (19:16). We have no record of a riot breaking out because the people were mad at the demons filling their city. There is no record of mass protests due to the fact that Artemis could do nothing to stop the evil that lingered over the city. The only riot is the one we read about that broke out when all of the gospel conversions started to cut into the false god industry. It was Paul, not the demon, that got under the skin of the Ephesian Chamber of Commerce.
One way of knowing that you belong to a corrupt society is when blatant evil is accepted simply because it’s good for a few politicians and the businessmen behind them.