Business and Christianity (Acts 19:23-41)
Today we think about the conflicting objectives of business and religion. In Acts 19, craftsmen who made small statues of the Greek goddess Artemis were losing business because so many people were becoming Christians. Caused a riot.
I recall that business has always been involved - both to support and to conflict with Christianity. We might not have a Protestant side of Christianity were it not for the business of funding and building a new cathedral. I'd like to take a step back and think about these issues...
#1 - Christianity turns our world ____________________ .
"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way." Acts 19:23 NIV
Let's be reminded that Christianity is not a faith designed to be easily forgotten. Our faith doesn't blend well into the background. When people become genuine Christ followers, they change. The old ways are no longer followed. There is a new way. THE way - that's what they called it at first.
This WAY causes great disturbances! We shouldn't be surprised.
[Jesus]: "Do you think that I came to bring peace to earth? No indeed!
I came to make people choose sides." Luke 12:51 CEV
Does that sound like the objective of Christianity is to get along with everyone? To just be "nice"? No! It's divisive! Forces people to choose!
"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." Acts 19:26 NIV
Paul is just telling it like it is. A statuette is just a piece of wood. Or metal. It is a created thing. It should never represent the CREATOR! We say "of course!" But be careful! We also now have entire industries of CHRISTIAN jewelry and books and home goods and chicken nuggets!
#2 - Be careful of how I ________ business and my Christian faith.
So am I saying that it's wrong to have these Christian businesses? To support these Christian businesses? No! But be aware that the twin objectives of any business is to make a profit for the owner(s) and to provide jobs to the employees. In other words, to provide income...
"[Demetrius]: "You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business." / "There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name..." Acts 19:25,27 NIV
Notice that Demetrius is concerned about protecting two things - their income and their reputation. It's so easy for us to cast these mold makers as evil villains. The truth is that every religion, including Christianity, has businesses that orbit and support the religion. And that's not a bad thing!
We at Church Requel rely upon companies that provide the software for our collections, for our newsletters, for our music and videos, and for our Bibles. And who among us doesn't enjoy supporting "Christian" businesses providing books, jewelry, home goods & chicken?
We should be wary of 3 challenges - that we don't always consider...
A. Challenge of which is my __________________ .
Obvious but easily missed.
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24 NIV
Let's talk about two kinds of businesses.
1st - the businesses that make money directly from Christianity.
These are the music makers, the book sellers, the jewelry makers. The ones who market to the Christian team! We can become so wrapped up in Christianity, that we miss out on other wonderful, creative things that God is doing.
I love Christian music, but does that mean it's the ONLY music I listen to? I love Christian books, but can't God work in my life through other authors? Does the wearing of a jeweled cross around my neck designate me more as a Christian than the surrendered and broken heart before the cross of Golgotha?
And if I am the seller of such music, literature or jewelry - how much attention do I invest in the Spirit of God's direction? Or am I just cranking out product?
2nd kind of business - Christian ownership.
I am thankful for businesses that stand up for Christian values. The ones who are willing to go to court to do business in such a way that honors the Lord even when it conflicts with the modern world's corrupted values.
BUT - and this is difficult to quantify - be wary of marketing to the Christian demographic for the purposes of making money. Which is Master?
B. Challenge of how I __________________ .
"A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there." Acts 19:24 NIV
"A: is directed to Christian businessmen. "B" and "C" are directed at Christian consumers.
The silversmith Demetrius made the silver shrines for one reason only - there was a demand for them. Businesspeople work to fulfill demand.
Christ-follower - you create the demand! Christian jewelry, Christian tattoos, Christian self-help books, Christian music and concerts are there for one reason only - because YOU demand it!
Now here is the tough question. Do you demand it because through it you genuinely worship our Lord? Or because you enjoy the genre?
C. Challenge of with whom I ___________________ .
"You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess." Acts 19:37 NIV
Is there anything wrong with supporting Christian business people? No. But beware of isolation. Beware of the harm you may cause to those solid, ethical businesses that you ignore because they make no claim to the Christian faith.
I'd much prefer a non-Christian with solid ethics than I would to a Christian pretender with questionable ethics. Wouldn't you? Also consider this - how will you ever be able to win over the good to the Creator of good if you never "do business" with non-Christians?
#3 - Be careful of _____________________ .
Finally today we must address the issue of the Ephesus riot. Joining in, thinking like the crowd.
"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 19:32 NIV
We see this "confusion," this shouting one thing or another, not even knowing why - because we are guilty of "Group think." "Crowd think."
We self identify ourselves with a particular religion (Christianity), or a particular political party, or a particular church, or a particular community - and we start parroting back what our team leaders think or believe. Often without ever thinking about it ourselves! Even worse, without ever praying about it and asking God what He thinks about it!
Right thinking never happens in a crowd and especially never in a riot. It takes quiet meditation and reflection and prayer. Maybe best lesson from parents to their children!
What if you are the victim of crowd think? Respond on FB? Tweet? No!
"The courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly." Acts 19:38b-39 NIV
We have become convinced that we must win in the courts of public opinion. Our own political leaders model this behavior. Yet Christianity begins with not striking the other cheek. With sacrificial love. And only when necessary responds in an orderly way in the courts of legal assembly.
Are you living the upside-down life of a genuine Christian? Is your Christianity on display not because of your crowd, but because of your love?