Acts 16:18-19 (Freedom Not Wanted)


This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. (Acts 16:18-19)


Relate: In the story we read in Acts 16, the New Living Translation says the slave girl had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. The NIV reads 16:16 similarly and the NASB translates: “a slave-girl having a spirit of divination…” The KJV and NKJV switch that around. They tell of a “slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination”. She didn’t have the spirit, the spirit had her. Either way, a more literal translation, rather than “spirit of divination” would be “spirit of python”. The python was a snake worshiped by and symbolizing the oracles of Delphi. Paul and Silas landed in a part of Greece north enough that these businessmen were allowed to keep this slave girl. If she had been living closer to Corinth or Athens, she would most likely have ended up living right there at the Oracle. Either way, this poor girl did not have  achoice in the matter.

When God, through Paul, set her free, the NLT says the merchants “hopes of wealth were now shattered.” The word translated hope actually means, “absolute certainty of future good”. This isn’t a hope like: “We are down by ten points in the fourth quarter with the clock running down. I hope we can come back and win.” No. This is more like: “By this hope we are saved.” (Romans 8:24) The word the NLT translates “wealth” actually means “income from work”. By freeing this girl from demon possession, Paul stole the golden goose. He took away from them a sure means of future income. He robbed them of their job security.

By casting out this demon, Paul and Silas set a girl free from spiritual bondage, but that is not what those around saw. They saw him attack their fine religious tradition and take away their job security. I’m pretty sure the businessmen and the crowd there at Philippi reacted the same exact way most people throughout the western world would react.

React: Am I more concerned with tradition, income, and security than I am with freedom? The coffee I drank this morning, how did it get to me so cheaply? What is its true price? If you’re engaged or married, look at that diamond. How did it go from the ground to you? What is its story? Do we know? Do we care? The gas we put in our car… how much turmoil in our world hinges on our demand for this stuff?

We have a fine tradition of getting whatever we want, whenever we want it, for as cheaply as possible. But the price of a thing should not just be measured by dollars and coins. These businessmen and as well as whoever cared to pay, were banking their future on the words this girl would speak. It was a win, win. The girls owners were making a tidy sum and those hearing their fortunes were getting good advice/predictions too. But it wasn’t a win for that slave. When I get something cheap, the store makes money. We both win. So who is the loser in this picture? Do I care enough to find out?


God, don’t let me ever grow comfortable in my convenience. Don’t let me be so quick to grow angry when that convenience is torn from me. Help me to be aware of the cost to others my lifestyle and income are built on. If there are changes I need to make, give me the courage and discipline to make them. Help me to be about bringing Your freedom, not just in the forever-after but also in the here and now.

4 thoughts on “Acts 16:18-19 (Freedom Not Wanted)

  1. Too often we ignore the cost of our convenience. Especially when others have to bear that cost. Economists call it an ‘externality’, a situation where real costs of a business decision are borne by others. E.g the Govt or the host community.

    As Christians, we must carefully evaluate externalities and place them in the balance sheet of our conscience.

    Only then can we properly value our decisions and appraise our actions. Only then do we know their true worth.

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