Tag Archives: Silas

Money Trouble

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.
Acts 16:19 (NIV)

I’m writing this morning’s post in the airport. Having wrapped up a week-long business trip I’m headed home. I spent the week serving a client in the financial sector. As I meditate on all that I’ve done this week, the teams I’ve worked with, the managers I’ve mentored, a common theme has been money.

  • Agents leaving their jobs to go to another company to make more money.
  • A manager who told me she’s turned down multiple job offers, including one that promised to double her pay, because she was happy in her job and her father taught her that more money was a foolish reason to leave a job you loved.
  • A young man telling me about his job scrutinizing the flow of money for potential threats.
  • A manager struggling to find new hires because most applicants have such poor credit histories from the way they handle their money.
  •  An agent at a restaurant with his boss, an award he’d received for his exceptional customer service, looks at the menu and then asks how much money he could spend.

All these little moments come back to me as I think about today’s chapter. Until this point in the history of the early Jesus Movement the conflicts (and there has been a lot of conflict) have been theological in nature between the Jewish tribe from which the Jesus movement sprang, the orthodox Jews who viewed the Jesus movement as a threatening heresy, and the explosive growth of non-Jewish believers who had no interest in holding to Jewish traditions.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that there had been an inflection point, and today’s chapter begins to hint at the differences that are beginning to emerge. Paul and his companion, Silas, are in the town of Philippi sharing the Message of Jesus. A conflict arises in which Paul and Silas are accosted, beaten, threatened, accused, and thrown into the local jail. The conflict wasn’t about theology, however, it was about money.

A young slave girl, possessed by an evil spirit, was a capable and profitable fortune-teller because of the presence of the evil spirit indwelling her. She was also so annoying that Paul commands the spirit to leave the girl in the name of Jesus. The spirit leaves. You’d think that this was a good thing, but not for the slave girl’s owners. No spirit, no fortune-telling. Paul and Silas, these out-of-town street preachers  had effectively screwed with the business and cash-flow of an upstanding member of the Philippi Chamber of Commerce.

You want to stir up trouble for yourself? Visit a strange town and mess with a local businessman’s cash-flow. As my week conducting business with my client reminds me this morning it’s always about money.

I sit this morning amidst the hustle and bustle of business travelers scurrying about in a major international airport. I’m reminded that Jesus said more about money than almost anything else. He used stories of money in parables because he knew that everyone could relate. He compared the spiritual desire we should have for the Kingdom of God to the frantic search of a poor woman for her lost savings. And of course, there’s that uncomfortable bit Jesus had to say about money being the number one thing that distracts us from that which is of eternal value.

This week as I sat in mentoring sessions with managers and supervisors, I found it fascinating that most of them came to our sessions with things that they wanted to talk with me about. For one it was the break-up of a long-term relationship, for another it was managing conflict within a personal relationship, and for another it was about a struggle to remain sober. Funny, the things with which they were ultimately concerned were not about business leadership and finance, though we did talk about those things. What they were frantic about was not about money, but about life and relationships and matters of Spirit.

Me too.

It’s been a good business trip, but now I’m headed…

Home, where my thoughts escapin’
Home, where my music’s playin’
Home, where m’love lies waiting silently for me.

Have a good weekend, my friend.

Contrasting Events; Contrasting Outcomes

prison2Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
Acts 16:26-28 (NRSV)

Earlier in the book of Acts, Luke chronicled the story of Peter being held in prison by Herod. When an angel appeared to Peter and led in his miraculous escape Herod quickly executed all of the guards for letting Peter escape (Acts 12:19). Justice in the Roman Empire in those days was swift, severe, and not always just. If your job was to guard a prisoner and the prisoner escaped, the penalty was death.

It was interesting to read a contrasting story in this morning’s chapter about Paul and Silas being thrown into prison in Philippi. When a violent earthquake frees them to make a run for it, Paul and Silas choose to stay in prison. They were, in effect, saving the jailer’s life, and their unexpected act of grace leads to the jailer and his household choosing to become followers of Jesus.

I find myself pondering the differences and the outcomes of these two stories this morning. Peter followed the angel to freedom and all of the guards were executed. When given an opportunity for escape, Paul and Silas chose to stay as an act of love and grace towards the jailer. Why didn’t Peter stay as a witness to his captors?

The situations were different. Peter was instructed to leave by the angel and was under heavy guard. He was in Jerusalem and being persecuted by Herod who was a ruthless, violent, insane dictator. In contrast, Paul and Silas were in a relatively small backwater Greek town being held in jail with only one jailor being mentioned. The stakes were much lower and Paul held a trump card which he plays at the end of the chapter. He was a Roman citizen which came with it a host of privileges that were being denied him. Despite the momentary suffering of incarceration, Paul knew that he actually held an unknown advantage.

Along life’s road I have observed that the institutional church and many Jesus followers desire faith and life to be simple and one-size-fits-all. As I wander through God’s Message I am reminded time and time again that following Jesus isn’t always that simple. God through Paul was merciful to the Philippian jailer, but all of Herod’s guards were summarily executed. Where was the mercy for them? Different time. Different place. Different circumstance. Different stakes. Different outcome.

Today, I’m pondering the reality that God sometimes chooses to move in different ways in different times, places, and circumstances. My job is not to try and categorize, confine, and control what God will do, but be open to the fact that God, His intentions, and His actions are beyond my categorization, confine, and control. My job is, by faith and obedience, to continue following where I am led and let God work as He wills.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 16

When I was a teenager working in a bookstore at the mall, I came across a quirky little book called The Philippian Fragment by Calvin Miller. The premise of the book is wonderfully simple. A pastor mysteriously uncovers and translates an early Christian manuscript of letters between Eusibus, an early pastor of Philippi, and his friend Clement of Coos. The letters are a rib-tickling reminder of one of my favorite themes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

As I read today’s chapter and the experiences of Paul and Silas in the Philippian dungeon, I was reminded of Pastor Eusibus’ experiences in the same cell with Coriolanus, a member of his flock (who was constantly a “thorn in his side”).

Here is 3 Clement Chapter 7:

1. Coriolanus has been arrested and has now become my cell mate. At first I protested to God that there was no justice in the universe. Coriolanus now and my own possible martyrdom in the future! Gradually I am adjusting.

2. We have lived together without resentment. 3. Tuesday night Coriolanus made a magnificent discovery. Near the base of the wall he found the Latin names Paul and Silas etched in the stone at the end of a prayer. 4. We noticed that the cell wall was crossed by fissures that could have been caused by a great earthquake. 5. Suddenly it dawned on us that perhaps this was the very cell where the Apostle Paul was a prisoner.

6. Remembering how Paul and Silas sang at midnight as God sent an earthquake to open the doors of the jail, we took courage. 7. “Do it again, God!” cried Coriolanus near midnight. He began to sing a hymn in monotone, and I joined in. We praised God at full volume with some of the great songs of the faith. 8. Ever and anon we stopped to see if we could hear even the faintest rumblings of a quake. By three in the morning we still had not raised a tremor and decided to give it up. There seemed so little to rejoice about. 9. Suddenly a jailor who had heard us singing sprang into the cell.

10. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he asked.

11. We told him in great joy.

12. “I can’t do that,” he said. “It’s too risky.”

13. As he left, he yelled over his shoulder, “Would you cut out the noise. It’s three in the morning.”

14. Still, I felt better for simply having praised Him. Praise clears the heart and dusts the mind of selfishness. It lifts the spirit and transforms the prison to an altar where we may behold the buoyant love of Christ. 15. It is not jailors who make convicts. It is the self-pitying mind that makes a man a captive.Praise frees us. The jail cannot contain the heart that turns itself to attend the excellency of Christ. 16. “Gloria in excelsis!” deals with stone walls and iron bars in its own way.

17. When morning finally came, I was elated. I found a flint rock in the cell and scratched our own names above the etching of Paul and Silas: 18. “Eusebius and Coriolanus—We sang at midnight and felt much better the next morning.”

19. Was it foolish, Clement? 20. It is always right to praise God, and maybe my inscription will help the next who occupy this cell to remember the principle, earthquake or not.

Miller, Calvin (2011-04-11). The Philippian Fragment (Kindle Locations 875-889). NOVO Ink. Kindle Edition.

I am reminded today that God doesn’t always work in formulas. Just because Paul and Silas’ songs of praise raised an earthquake doesn’t mean it will happen the same way again for me. It’s still a good idea to sing praises, however, if only to raise our spirits.