19 “But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Acts 16:19–24)
The act by the Apostle Paul in casting out the demon from the slave girl fulfilled the well-known expression,” No good deed goes unpunished.” The phrase is a sardonic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. In other words, those who help others are doomed to suffer as a result of their being helpful. The comment has been attributed to several luminaries, including filmmaker Billy Wilder, writer Clare Booth Luce, American financier John P. Grier, banker Andrew W. Mellon, and Oscar Wilde, although its actual origin has never been established.
When the slave girl’s owners realized their source of income was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers of the city. The marketplace was where the city magistrates judged court cases. The probable reason why Luke and Timothy were not arrested was because they, unlike Paul and Silas, were Gentiles and not Jewish. It appears that anti-Semitism against Paul and Silas contributed to their arrest.
As is often the case, the owners of the slave girl did not express their real reasons for bringing Paul and Silas before the magistrates to stand trial. They never mentioned their loss of income due to the exorcism performed by God through Paul. Rather, they fabricated the charge that because the two missionaries were Jewish they were disturbing their Gentile city. They indicated that the duo were advocating customs that were not lawful for Romans to accept or practice. It is interesting to note that the accusers never said what those unlawful customs were.
The predominantly Gentile mob joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. The magistrates, without even hearing testimony from the two missionaries, gave orders for both of them to be beaten with rods. The rods were called fasces. They were bundles of rods carried by Roman law officers.
Following a severe beating, the magistrates had Paul and Silas thrown into prison. The jailer was to keep watch over them and hold them securely. Upon hearing this directive, the jailer placed Paul and Silas into the inner prison and fastened their feet in stocks.
The suffering experienced by Christians takes many forms. I Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
What was Paul Silas’ response to this unfair and unlawful treatment? We will examine the answer to this question when next we meet.
Until then, Soli deo Gloria!