“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” Acts 16:13-15 (ESV)
Who were the women who gathered at the river banks that Sabbath? The focus is on an enigmatic woman called Lydia who is identified as a tradeswoman in the lucrative and complex dyeing industry of her day. It would be fair to say she had specialized knowledge in sourcing and extracting prized color from Mediterranean mollusks which were used to dye garments for the upper echelons of Roman society and others who wore the distinguishing purple to mark their elite status. A woman involved in a niche luxury-goods business and someone who owned her own home, suggests that Luke is perhaps making a point that she was successful! However, larger than her business profile is her posture before God.
Verse 14 describes her as a hearer. Despite the demands of the world of work, she seems to press pause to listen to the message of Paul, indicating a deep hunger for the things of God. Creating sabbatical rhythms of listening to God leads us to realize who God is and that He alone can satisfy our deepest yearnings. Will you stop to listen to the voice of God to enjoy the good things He has prepared for you? The life-giving invitation of Jesus to us is, “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
Lydia in the world of Caesar is described as a worshipper of God. The allure of ‘purple’ does not seem to deceive her. Her true allegiance is to God. In her listening and yielding, she is enabled to open her heart to enter into a deep personal relationship with God.
Satan tempted Jesus by saying, “If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:7). ‘It’ represents all the things this world places value on. But Jesus replied, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8). What are the ‘it’ altars of this world that you bow your knee to? A profit and loss statement from Jesus is, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Lydia sold purple, she didn’t worship it. God clearly had the throne of her heart.
When Lydia got baptized with her household in response to God’s message, she was serious about her commitment to the faith and declared herself to be a believer in the Lord.
Are you enthusiastic in identifying yourself as a committed follower of Jesus, both in public and at home?
Having freely received the hospitality of God, her grateful and natural response is of one who gives back. She was a strategic player who took initiative in expanding the mission of God. A church was established in Philippi because of Lydia’s open heart and her open home. How is God calling you to share joyfully the gifts and resources that He has freely given you and partner with Him in His mission?
God, today we pray especially for our business leaders that they build and establish business practices open to your Spirit of wisdom and counsel. May their lives be consecrated to honor You. We pray for favor on the marketplace, that it will reflect You and benefit the people living in this nation and beyond. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Chitra L. Kovoor
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union at Yale
Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in Business
BOOK (96 pages): Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem
This biblically-based book is a thoughtful guide to imitating God during interactions with customers, coworkers, employees, and other businesses. See how your business, and your life in business, can be dedicated to God's glory.
AUDIO (1:21:22): Panel Discussion: Science And Engineering
This vocational panel discussion was recorded at the Christian Union Nexus Conference 2016. Nexus is an annual conference that equips students and professionals to seek God and to live out their faith and change culture. The panelists were Mr. John Lin, Design Engineering Manager at ILC Dover in the field of Aerospace Engineering, Ms. Lauren Casper, Project Engineer with Turner Construction, Dr. Jim Williams, Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
BOOK (207 pages): Redeeming Capitalism by Kenneth J. Barnes
In this book Barnes explores the history and workings of this economic system, and unpacks biblical-theological teachings on work and wealth. The book pushes the reader to consider a more just and flourishing capitalism for the good of all.