Last week’s post Life And Death Is In The Tongue got me thinking about the influence and power of a crowd. I know some things about crowds from my career as a police officer. I remember being assigned to various events where there would be large crowds of people and my task was to ensure the citizen’s safety through crowd control tactics. I quickly learned how one disgruntled person could influence a crowd’s behavior.
To examine just how influential a crowd can be, let’s take a close look at a silversmith named Demetrius in the Book of Acts 19:23-29 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way (Christianity). A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater.
As I studied out theses scriptures, I started to noticed that there was a sequence of thinking that Demetrius had, that is common to all humans regarding how we’re influenced, our selfishness. Demetrius, the silversmith, determined that Paul’ s teaching about Christ was a potential threat to him personally and would impact his way of life by reducing his income and the income of his fellow tradesmen. But for Demetrius to drive his point home, he had to take his conclusion to the local silversmiths. Once he gathered them all together, he was able to use what they had in common, their craft and the power of a crowd, to influence their thinking. Their craft was in high demand by the people of Ephesus and made Demetrius a rich man. Paul posed a financial threat to their trade and their livelihood. Demetrius made it clear that unless they intervened, Paul’s message would not only take away their craft but ultimately destroy their culture. The crowd was furious and become riotous at hearing their goddess Artemis would be discredited and robbed of her Divine majesty. This set the crowd in an uproar and because Paul was not present they sized his companions.
Acts 19:29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater.
When we step back and closely examine the events in the Acts 19, we see the power of a crowd. It is apparent that people were influenced by their deep desire to belong, their need to fulfill their social nature and their selfish nature. Most of the time our need to fit in and be apart of something is unconscious. If we’re not careful, we can take in information without caring whether it’s true or false; good or bad; or even where it came from. Well that’s just what happen to the crowd Demetrius, the silversmith, was addressing. Acts 19:32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.
If we take a step back and closely examined our motives and the “influences” we allow to impact our lives, we wouldn’t so quickly follow the influence of the crowd. I have not been one to easily go along with what the crowd was doing, but there have been times that I have fallen prey. Take me out to the ball game!
The influence of a crowd often goes undetected. When I was dialoging with my wife, Amy, about this post and the power of a crowd she reminded me of how we have been sucked under the influence of a crowd … and it usually involves stuff for the kids. For the past several years it has become a tradition for us to go to Disney on Ice. I remember the first year we went; we really didn’t know what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was and how much we all enjoyed it. What we weren’t prepared for was the amount of overpriced junk that they were peddling. Emma Grace and Ella were little, 6 and 4, and were mesmerized by the all the glitter and sugar! Before we knew it, so were we! As we saw smiling kids with huge snow cones, wands with twirling lights, and diamond tiaras, with our two wide-eyed angels looking up at us, we found ourselves in the long lines buying the overpriced junk. We became part of the crowd of people rushing to pay $ 15.00 for a snow cone that in all actuality is only worth about a dollar. Thankfully we can say lesson learned and we now go in to such events with the pre-show talk about what we’ll be buying. Amy and I even use the buddy system and if one of us starts to crumble under the pressure the other knows to step in … As you can imagine it’s usually me.
Hopefully in reading this week’s post I have made you aware of the power of a crowd and the influence it can have on you. When you find yourself tempted to come under the influence of others, ask yourself – am I seeking things from people that I should be seeking from Jesus? The greatest influence that a person can ever come under is Jesus. I pray that that you allow your life to be influenced not by this world, by the “crowds” in your life, or you own selfishness but by the power of God.