“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16)
The word for “full” insinuates that the city is “swamped” with idols. There were idols everywhere. One writer said about Athens that it was easier to find a god there than a man. One estimate is that there were 10,000 people in Athens and 30,000 statues to gods.
As Paul walked around Athens, “his spirit was provoked within him.” What does that mean? I think two things: 1) He felt indignation for God’s glory, and 2) He felt compassion for the people of the city. Paul saw a city full of people, spiritually lost. Those idols represented to him people searching for answers in all the wrong places. They were lost; dying. He saw beyond the impressive temples and pillars and marble to the spiritual bankruptcy they represented. It troubled him deeply.
What do we “feel” as we look around our community and specifically, the real people in it? Do we see the temples and idols of our age as man’s continuing search for significance? Search for God? If we were to take a drive to downtown Chicago, what would see? What is spiritually behind towering buildings, each one seemingly trying to outdo the next? What if you drive by the United Center or Soldier Field? These are huge structures built to hold people’s attention and worship. Michigan Avenue has one lavish store after another; Bloomingdales. Nieman Marcus. Saks. There are spiritual values standing behind all of them. They are the same old idols and temples. The Trump Tower says, “Look at me, look what man can do!” Soldier Field says, “What happens here is really important.” And Michigan Avenue says, “Buy what I have and be satisfied.” Is Chicago so different from Athens?
As we see people scurrying to and fro and in and out of these places of worship, it takes gospel eyes to see where all their pursuits will take them. Paul’s heart broke at the sight. John Stott says, “The reason we don’t do what Paul did is that we don’t feel what Paul felt.” Our hearts don’t break, or I should say, my heart doesn’t break, not like Paul’s. We don’t do what he did because we don’t feel what he felt.
To change the world or to change your world you have to care enough about God’s glory and people and their eternity to be willing to do something about it.
Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2012 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.