17 This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices,19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value, and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver.20 In this way the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed. Acts 19:17-20 (HCSB)
As I read this today I was reminded of a strange statement Jesus once made: “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself (Luke 16:9).” I won’t go into detail here about what I think Jesus meant by that, but part of what he was saying is that money can be a tool used for the kingdom of God. We don’t hear that message enough. I grew up believing the Bible taught that money was the root of all evil. It isn’t, of course. Paul says the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). And if money is a tool, it is in essence neutral. It can be used for good or evil.
Jesus was teaching a truism that George Bailey would later teach the angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life: “It [money] comes in pretty handy down here, bub!”
We see a perfect example in Acts 19. The main goal of spreading the gospel wasn’t to change the Ephesian economy. The goal was to help people and change hearts. And that’s exactly what happened: As the Holy Spirit moved, God was honored, sin confessed, repentance made, and sin renounced. When revival comes and those things truly happen, it can’t HELP but effect the economy! The new Ephesian Christians burned their junk to the tune of 50K Drachma.
A Drachma was a silver piece equaling about a day’s wage. Even in a big city like Ephesus (est. 250,000 citizens in the first century) that’s a significant chunk of the Ephesian economy. So significant, that someone bothered to count it. So significant, in fact, that the loss of this income led to riots in the streets (see next week’s Catalyst).
Our hearts matter. And our money follows our hearts. That’s why I like to eat at Chic’ Fil A and don’t shop at Starbucks or Home Depot. I’m not going to ask you to join me, but for me it is a matter of principle. It is said that when the second Great Awakening happened on our continent, bars were closing on every street corner. Imagine for a moment if God were honored in our nation: the porn industry would go bankrupt, the abortion clinics would be shuttered, TV shows promoting alternative lifestyles would get no advertising. But even more, churches would have money for ministry and staff, and WE could take care of the less fortunate instead of the government.
But it can’t start with money. It starts with the heart.