Lydia was a women ahead of her time. She lived in about A.D. 50 and was a business women from Thyratira. In her business she sold purple cloth, which at that time, was associated with high social rank and great wealth. Now, dyeing cloth was a lot harder to do in AD 50 than it is now. The purple dye was obtained from the shells of the murex, an ocean molusk. Because it was difficult to produce, the dye and garments of that color were expensive. As a dealer of the purple cloth, Lydia made a fantastic living for herself and her family. She was wealthy and well respected in her community.
We also know that Lydia was considered the "mistress" of her household, or the head of the household. Back then, this included both family and slaves. Historical references do not specifically tell us about Lydia's marital status, but we know that being considered head of household probably indicated that she was unmarried. Biblical scholars have debated back and forth whether she was widowed, divorced, or even perhaps, an ex-slave that was emancipated. Regardless, we know that it was "her" household.
Lydia's story is told in the Holy Bible, Acts 16:13-15, 40 where the Apostle Paul wrote:
"On the Sabbath we went in a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we supposed that some people met for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had come together. One of them was Lydia from Thyratira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptised along with other members of her household and she asked us to be her guests. "If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my home." And she urged us until we did...Paul and Silas then returned to the home of Lydia, where they met with the believers and encouraged them once more before leaving town." (New Living Translation)
So, now we know, too, that Lydia believed in God and she and her entire household worshipped Him. Not only that, she was hospitable and welcomed Paul and Silas into her home. For her acts of kindness, God judged her to be a faithful believer.
I love the story of Lydia, a single woman with the strength, determination and integrity to be a successful entrepreneur in what was, undoubtedly, a male-dominated society, and yet publicly open about her faith and beliefs. She was a strong and competent person, yet warm and openhearted. She was both a follower of God and a leader amongst the people she lived. She was gutsy!
Copyright M. A. Webb, 2005. All Rights Reserved