By Pastor David M. Choi
There is a slave girl in the Roman city of Philippi. Her body belongs to her owners, but her soul belongs to the demonic spirit. The slavemasters and the demon are close economic allies, because they mutually profit from the girl’s misery and captivity. For her owners, the divination (i.e. fortunetelling) literally brings in cash. For the spirit, the fleshly dwelling allows the demonic to grow in number and strength. Unbeknownst to this poor girl, her body has become the site of a barter economy, where evil is exchanged for profit and profit for evil.
But one day, the demonic spirit begins to rattle around in its cage, more violently than usual, because turning the corner up ahead is Silas and Paul: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation” (v.17). True words, but not for benevolent purpose. The demon signals to the slave girl’s masters that these men actually threaten enormous profit losses, because it hears the Spirit of Christ’s footsteps now approaching in these men. If you are afraid of losing profit, then you better be afraid of them, because they are of Christ! Unable to heed the warning in time, Paul drives out the power of evil profit, and the slave girl’s owners now begin to fume, for “her owners say that their hope of [profit] is gone” (v.19).
We are among the enslaved, just to the extent we are gripped by a demonic economy, which all too often feels insurmountable and inescapable. Yet, all of us among the privileged can certainly identify with the real slaves, namely, the slavemasters, as we are caught up in our own selfish ambitions, by which we, sheltered suburbanites, unwittingly perpetuate the misery of the marginalized, as well as the selfish profit motives of our economic lords.
What do we see here except that God’s goal is to decouple us from every perpetuating structure of economic injustice, where bodies are exploited, abused, and trampled upon. As he called Silas and Paul, we hear God calling us now to live in the freedom of Christ, to liberate the enslaved through the proclamation of God’s Word, to renounce all of our unjust gains, and to work towards a future that is more just and an economy more equitable. As we and our nation commemorate Juneteenth, the day which marks the end of slavery in America, we remember that the Spirit who stood at the heart of the unnamed slave girl was the same Spirit who stood at the heart of so many black Americans in their fight for freedom and justice. But of course, that fight for freedom is far from over. The sad reality is that too many of our black brothers and sisters have stood in this fight alone. But now, if that same Spirit stands in our own hearts, we should join in that struggle as well.
So, where is a realistic place for you to begin? As you work towards your future, simply begin by considering how the gospel reconfigures your vision of education and vocation, including your relation to success, money, and material wealth. How can you work towards breaking free from a demonic economy, and use what you have been given not for self-promotion but for the benefit of those who are in need of God’s love, in both spiritual and tangible ways?
Lord, you care about how I treat others, which is why you care about how I inhabit this economy. Help me to better love and advocate for those who are poor and oppressed, and to give away whatever money, time, and resources I have as you see fit. For all of the ways I am complicit, I repent. Comfort the afflicted, free the oppressed, and break the cycles of the demonic economies of this world. In all the ways I am complicit, I ask for your forgiveness. In the all the ways I am complicit, I ask you to show me what it means to repent. Amen.