Job 41-42 Acts 16:22-40
“The police told the Roman officers what Paul said. When the officers heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. So they came and told Paul and Silas they were sorry and took them out of jail and asked them to leave the city. So when they came out of the jail, they went to Lydia’s house where they saw some of the believers and encouraged them. Then they left.” (Acts 16:38-40 NCV)
Paul started a riot. I know, that doesn’t narrow down where he is very much. He started lots of riots. Well, not Paul, actually. The people who started the riots around Paul didn’t like his teaching. In some cases, it was because religious leaders thought they were losing power. In Philippi, it was all about the Benjamins. Paul had cast a demon out of a slave girl and the people who used that slave girl for profit got ticked and started the riot in motion. When the Roman soldiers asked who started it, the crowd pointed to Paul and Silas so they stripped them and beat them before throwing them in jail. Riot over. Problem solved. When things calmed down the next day, the magistrates sent word to let Paul and Silas go. Paul took umbrage at that and reminded the jailer, who had come to Christ earlier, that they, Roman citizens, had been beaten in public without a trial and now they weren’t going to just slink away. The soldiers were worried then! If word got back to Rome that they’d beaten Roman citizens without a trial… They came, apologized, and asked Paul and Silas to leave the city – which they did after encouraging the new believers in the city.
This story fascinates me every time I read it. The earthquake that opened prison doors, yet no one escaped. The jailer’s change of heart because of the Good News of salvation caused him to care about Paul and Silas as he treated their wounds. Then came the offer of freedom from jail that Paul rejected as offered. He knew they shouldn’t be in jail, yet they didn’t leave when the earthquake gave them an opportunity. When offered freedom by the ones who put him in jail, they wouldn’t leave because it showed a lack of respect and Paul invoked their citizenship to put the fear of God into them. Finally, the ones who put them in jail came personally to apologize and let them out the right way. Well, they did let Paul and Silas know that they should leave town. Paul and Silas left, but only after encouraging the believers at Lydia’s house. There are some important lessons here. The first is that following and obeying Christ may have financial implications. Paul, by rebuking that spirit, stopped the ill-gotten gains of those slave owners. Today’s modern slavery thrives by way of internet advertising and pornography. We need to support efforts to fight both and we need to find ways to lead people away from those types of sites. There are other money-making methods that are less than honorable and we as Christians need to be ready to denounce dishonorable profit when we see it happening. The second is that we should use our rights for a purpose. While we shouldn’t spend our lives demanding our rights, we should be ready to enforce them when it will help us spread the gospel as God calls us to. It was important for those leaders who put Paul and Silas into jail to realize that Roman citizens could follow the “Jewish gospel.” We should never be obnoxious, of course, but we should enforce our rights firmly when it will allow us to share the good news of Jesus with others. At the same time, we must be willing to give up our rights if doing that will allow us to share the love of Jesus.
Lord, I live in a world where money has become a god. People judge each other over how much money the other person has. Remind me to speak out about Your views of money and possessions. Teach me to use my rights or surrender them in order to proclaim Your love and grace to others.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved