“Word for Today” – Acts 19 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 15, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Silver Coins 1I have long been a fan of silver.  When Melody and I were planning our wedding, she asked me if there was a particular ring that I would like.  There was a James Avery ring, engraved with Song of Songs 2:16 in Hebrew, which was a favorite of mine.  “Get me that ring!” I anxiously told my bride to be.  After doing some research, she asked me, “The ring you want comes in white gold and silver.  Which one would you like?”  “Silver,” I responded.  “Yes, but white gold is nicer, don’t you think?” came her reply.  “I actually like silver better.  And besides,” I continued in my best serious tone, “it’s cheaper.”  And I’m glad it is.  Because I have already lost my wedding ring once and have had to get it replaced.  And silver proved to be a definite money saver in that regard.

In our reading for today from Acts 19, silver’s value is twice typified.  In the first instance, an evil spirit batters and bruises some hack exorcists who are hocking their spurious demonic deportations in Ephesus.  Those who see these beatings are “seized with fear [so that] the name of the Lord Jesus [becomes] held in high honor” (verse 17).  In response to this fear, and with the apostle Paul present and with his seemingly incipient blessing, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.  When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas” (verse 19).  A drachma was a silver coin worth about a day’s wages.  Thus, fifty thousand pieces of silver were lost that day, roughly equivalent to six million dollars of today’s currency.  That’s a lot of silver to be burned in the form of books!

Now, before you accuse Paul of inciting some sort of medieval-styled, mob-fueled, thoughtlessly-pedestrian book burning, it is important to remember that these scrolls were not mere relics of historic and academic curiosity.  They were compilations of magic spells believed by the Ephesians to have real mystical powers.  In other words, these scrolls were dangerous to those who read them because they actually believed what was contained in them, much like a Neo-Nazi reading Hitler’s deranged opus Mein Kampf would be dangerous even today.  Indeed, Paul is anything but narrow and unacademic.  Earlier in this chapter, we find Paul delivering a college-type lecture on Christianity at Tyrannus Hall (cf. verse 9).  Paul was most certainly smart.

Our second encounter with silver comes with a silversmith named Demetrius.  Apparently, Demetrius made his living casting and selling idols to the local superstitious population.  When Paul, in his teaching, rails against such idolatry, Demetrius is disturbed:

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 practically the whole province of Asia.  He says that man-made gods are no gods at all.  There is danger…that our trade will lose its good name. (verses 25-27)

And therein lies the rub.  Demetrius has seen the equivalent of fifty thousand pieces of silver evaporate in a poof of smoke at a book burning.  And now Demetrius’ silver business is crashing as fewer and fewer residents purchase his silver gods.  Thus, Demetrius leads an angry mob that drags Paul and his traveling companions into the Ephesian theatre (cf. verse 29), estimated by historians to have a capacity of anywhere from twelve thousand to twenty-five thousand people.  Imagine!  Paul having to defend himself in front of an angry mob of twenty-five thousand people.  And what has provoked this intimidating scene?  Silver.

To those obsessed with silver and other precious metals, the apostle James has a dire warning:  “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days” (James 5:3).  “Silver rots,” James says.  Interestingly, the Greek word for “corrosion” here is ios, used not only to describe rot and rust on metal, but the poison of a snake.  Those who horde and guard silver and other valuables at all costs poison their souls.  That is why Jesus famously encourages:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The earthly treasure of silver may move twenty-five thousand people to riot at a theatre in Ephesus.  But the treasure of God can move a soul to sing eternal praises in the theatre of heaven.  Which treasure is more valuable to you?

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 18 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 20 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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