In our story today, Paul and Silas encounter an enslaved girl who has a “spirit of divination” that is making her owners a lot of money. The spirit in her would cry out that Paul and Silas were “slaves of the Most High God.” They get so annoyed with being constantly shouted at—even though it’s true—that Paul commands the spirit to come out of her.
She is now free from her spiritual slavery. With this freedom go her divination skills, and her owners are not happy. They’re no longer making money from her, and they lodge a complaint against Paul and Silas: “These men are disturbing our city . . .” This is code language for “we’re losing money because they’re setting our slave free.” It turns out that salvation disturbs unjust economic systems.
In the same way that these slave owners made money from their enslaved girl, the United States built its wealth with the labor of enslaved Africans. The economic impact is still felt today in the Black community. Christian sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, in their book Divided by Faith, state that the median net worth of Blacks is just 8 percent that of whites.
How can salvation disturb this unjust economic system? One answer became clear to me when I inherited money after my parents died. My wife and I decided to prioritize three things with this money. We tithed to our church, used half of what was left to set up college savings accounts for our boys, and gave the other half to create seminary scholarships for future Black pastors. Following Jesus meant for us that when we inherited wealth, we were given an opportunity to disrupt unjust economic systems around intergenerational wealth. Did this one act solve every problem? Absolutely not! But it was one way we could help undo centuries of economic enslavement.
How can your financial decisions this week help build a more just economic world?
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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