Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 19: Year 2
Morning, Psalms 72; Evening, Psalm 119:73-96;
Job 42:1to17; Acts 16:16 to 24; John 12:20 to 26
“One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling.” (Acts 16: 16)
There is so much in this Acts reading. First of all, did the slave girl recognize Paul and his partners as fellow slaves, even though she says they were slaves of the Lord almighty? (Perfect Freedom)
Second, I’m guessing Luke is the silent partner as he records the Acts, and says, “While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation;” (Acts 16: 17). She gave insight to those who did not know salvation, that is, a Way to eternal life, and a path to achieve it. This is the “next life” stuff.
Third, “She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour;” (Acts 16: 18). So we are to understand that Paul, through the Name of Jesus, took away the slave girl’s “gift.” She was devalued then in the eyes of her master. But she was also freed in terms of her own autonomy.
Fourth, “But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities;” (Acts 16: 19). So it turns out that it’s all about the money. Perhaps not much has changed, even for us today.
It is awful the way we use money to misuse others. It is equally awful the way we retaliate against those who hold us accountable for the dignity of others. “When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods;” (Acts 16: 20 to 22). This was clearly an anti-Semitic attack on this group of Jewish believers in Jesus, and was only brought about because of the loss of money.
The lesson for me in all of this is to remember to be decent to others always. We must not look for ways to bring hurt on those who hold us accountable. We should not have needed it, but if we do, better to be held accountable in this life rather than the “next life.” Paul removes the spirit that was at work in the girl but does not attempt to use his divine gift to resist or retaliate against his oppressors. Decency towards others and discernment of the spirit are key here. We all can do this.
We all can, and should, continue to pray for decency and discernment in Ukraine.
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John