“A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that 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 gods made by human hands 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!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together…The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.”
Acts 19:24-29, 32 (NIV)
Demetrius is afraid of Paul preaching this upstart religion which is going to cut into his business. If everyone turns from idols and believes in one god, nobody is going to want to buy the idols that him and his fellow craftsmen are making. They are the dominant religious and economic force in the region and they see Paul as a threat. Demetrius then veils himself in piety with the statement, “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.” His first concern is for his business, then he turns to his secondary concern about the glory of Artemis.
If this story sounds slightly familiar, I don’t think things have changed much from Demetrius and Paul’s time to today. However, the shoe is on the other foot.
Christians in the Western culture of today are in the majority. Yet, as many reports, studies and surveys have shown…things are shifting. We are often the ones who feel like there’s something to lose when differing ideologies move in on our turf. We can often feel like our “way of life” is being altered and our “values” are being infringed upon because somebody else has a different way of seeing things. Much like Demetrius and the crowd in Ephesus, Christians can get riled up when they feel like their way of life is under attack and God may “robbed of [His] divine majesty.”
Is this truly the way of Christ? Many people will cite Jesus’ shenanigans with a whip and tables at the Temple as reason for their response. But, Jesus was taking issue with the powerful majority who was squeezing out the powerless minority.
“After entering the temple, he threw out those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He didn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He taught them, “Hasn’t it been written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you’ve turned it into a hideout for crooks.”
Mark 11:15-17 (CEB)
Doves are highlighted here because they are the sacrifice allowed for the poorest of the poor (see Leviticus 5:7). So, Jesus is not upset because he feels like outsiders or minorities are challenging the status quo. He’s upset because those in power are deliberately keeping out the minorities, outsiders and needy and taking advantage of them in the process.
It can feel good to have a crowd behind you and to be in the majority. But, again I have to ask…is this the way Christ? Christ who had all the power in the cosmos, but gave up his “divine majesty” to look like a servant. Christ who commanded demons and chatted with Elijah and Moses yet stooped down to wash the disciples sand-covered feet. Christ who fed the hungry, healed the sick and raised the dead yet who was crucified, seemingly “discredited” by an angry crowd. Christ who was whipped, spit upon, demeaned and degraded yet is now worshiped throughout the heavens and the earth.
If Christ was not afraid of stepping down from his place of authority to serve those who did not deserve it…we should not fear either.