“Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” In this simple chant, the very heart of today’s story, we find a great insight into our own idolatry as a nation. From hyper-nationalism to Capitalism to love of money to the “cult of celebrity” and beyond, we as a culture live lives that put ideas, people, and most often ourselves above God.
The Ephesians, led by Demetrius, do not object to a new religion, philosophy, or worldview. As always, their objection was that this new belief was impinging on their business. Money is by far the greatest idol we fight, both personally and religiously. Unlike in Thessalonica where the mob was made up of ruffians, here Demetrius makes a mob of the businessmen of Ephesus. And these start up the chant, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
Artemis, better known to us as Diana, Huntress and the protector of women, was the patron of Ephesus. And her temple was so wondrous that it became one of the 7 Wonders of the World. No wonder the statue/idol/”image of Artemis” business was thriving. But Paul and The Way (their name for Christianity) were so compelling that people were turning away from the worship of Artemis, and that was hurting their idol business. So they rioted against Christianity.
Today, this is not much of a worry for the church, and that is deeply shameful to us. This society need not fear our stealing customers away from them because we have instead joined them in their idol business. We teach that the tenets of capitalism, of American-ism, are God’s will and we draw people not away from the idolatry but right into it. Try telling the average church-goer that God wants them to give up their money, their comfort, their authority, and you’ll see a riot all right. I have never even referenced the story of the rich young ruler without someone immediately telling me that God wanted him to BE WILLING to give up his belongings, not to actually do it.
We have to watch carefully that we don’t fall into the very idolatry God calls us to fight against. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking up the chant, “Great is the Captialism of America!”