About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way. It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades, and addressed them as follows:
"Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren't really gods at all. And he's done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I'm not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I'm also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis — this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world — will be robbed of her great prestige!"
— Acts 19:23-27 NLT
In our lack of awareness of pagan idolatry, moderns tend to think of idolatry as worshipping an image as a manifestation of a god. In reality, the worship of idols involved far more than worshiping an image as a god. All sorts of economic and political ramifications accompanied idolatry. Cult prostitution — often with minors and involving both heterosexual and homosexual sex acts — brought in huge sums of money to the temples. The selling of images, both of the false gods and their temples, brought some people great financial gain. A dedication sacrifice to a false god, and later to the emperor himself, was part of many civic and public events. Much of the meat in the markets came from the pieces of meat left after certain other parts had been sacrificed. Ephesus was the center of many of these practices and had become the financial center of the Roman Empire, much like Rome was the political center. When people followed Jesus, they turned away from idolatry. Their repentance threatened economic and political life in the Roman province of Asia (in modern-day Turkey) and especially in Ephesus. People in power preferred money over Jesus and a life of faith. That preference made Christianity a threat and should remind us that we cannot serve God and money, especially when that money is tied to the worship of other gods and goddesses and the debauched lifestyle that accompanied their worship. We must hear Jesus' warning, today. We cannot serve God and the gods and powers behind money and idols!
Father, forgive me for sometimes making other things a higher priority than you in my life. While I do not worship an image of a false god or goddess, I confess that I have sometimes allowed other things to take a higher priority in my life than you. Please forgive me. Awaken my heart to the truth. Shake me loose from my tolerance of anything that might crowd out my passion for you, O God, as the only true and living God. I ask this, in Jesus' name. Amen.