Acts 16:11-15 A Woman of Means

 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

A Woman of Means

There don’t seem to have been enough Jewish men in Philippi to start a synagogue so the few faithful Jews would go down to the river to pray.  Paul went down to the women there and shared the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Lydia responded favourably.

Lydia was a woman of means.  A trader in purple cloth would have been a high-end textile merchant.  To make the colour purple required collection of rare sea creatures to create the dye.  the capital needed to start the business would have been no joke, but the turnover in a town populated by retired Roman soldiers and other Roman citizens might have been high.  As is common in Acts, not only Lydia but her whole household were baptized.

Because she was a single woman who was creative and entrepreneurial, she had resources at her disposal which God could use to further his ministry.

Professional women today have to manage a work schedule with home life.  It is no easy road to travel.  Women who go through a divorce often gain custody of the children and so need to be the primary care-giver whilst also holding down a job.  Our society is more amenable to women in these circumstances than it once was.  The Good Wife illustrates this by showing a lawyer played by Martha Plimpton who often has to bring her child with her into the workplace.  She uses the child to manipulate judges and juries in her favour, but she is shown as a shrewd professional who is also a caring mother.  Many women are fighting for better daycare and other allowances for their circumstances.  However, society is still trying to make sense of what the role of a woman is.  Can a woman be a minister, a breadwinner, a housewife, and a mother?  Some women have aspirations to be a jack of all trades, but then they may be a master of none.

Lydia may have been unmarried and devoted to her business.  Her business may have been what we might call a cottage industry run from the home.  However, her influence for The Kingdom of God extended beyond her home.  She is an example of how God can use women and their capital that they have generated with their own hands.

Prayer

Father, women today try to do the best they can with so little.  Sometimes women are overlooked, oppressed and unappreciated.  Thank you for the example of Lydia.  Thank you that a woman responded in faith and became the first convert in an important church.  We thank you for all those women who are living in faith and leading their families in wisdom and service.

Questions

  1. Where had Paul traveled?
  2. To whom did Paul preach?
  3. How was Lydia used?
  4. How does God use people of means today?
  5. How are professional women viewed in your church?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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