“But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God!” (Acts 8:20,21)
In the book of Acts we meet a very interesting character, Simon who we usually know as the Sorcerer. According to Luke, Simon was the equivalent of a rock star in Samaria. The people were in awe of him because he was ‘claiming to be someone great’. The people even called him The Great Power of God. It must have been pretty heady stuff.
But then a preacher named Phillip came to town. He was telling about One named Jesus and how he died to save people from their sins. Phillip also drove out evil spirits, healed the lame and did many other miracles. All of a sudden there was another great power of God in town, one that even Simon recognized as legitimate. People were moved to obey the message being preached, including Simon.
The Bible gives no indication that Simon’s conversion was a “what’s in it for me” or was anything but genuine. When word gets back to Jerusalem that the gospel is bringing a great response among the people of Samaria, Peter and John come down to pray for them and to impart the Holy Spirit in a miraculous measure to the new converts, in order to strengthen the church and give authority to the message they will now spread among their neighbors.
At this point, Simon falls prey to old temptations. He was once the Great Power, but now is just another disciple. If he had the power to impart these gifts he could once again be a ‘rock star’. So he offers to buy the power from Peter, and is roundly condemned for his sinful heart. He is admonished to repent to avoid being pulled further into sin and condemnation, and although there isn’t a clear declaration in scripture, indications are that he did repent.
Simon always seems to get a bad rap; they even named a sin, “simony” after him. But I think I understand a little about Simon and his motivations, and how difficult it is to move past and repudiate them. Simon was a brand-new Christian, and as such hadn’t had time to grow beyond spiritual infancy.
I also understand the temptation; almost anyone who has ever served the church in a public way has probably felt a little of the same pressure. In my case it started long before then. As a ‘precocious’ child of tender years, I was demanding the microphone at a church Christmas party to sing the theme song to the old Wyatt Earp TV show. If that weren’t cringe-worthy enough (actually, I guess at that age people thought it was cute), about that same time I was hawking nickels from deer hunters at my grandmother’s restaurant for the juke box so I could sing along with Pat Boone.
From those auspicious beginnings things began a downward spiral. What was cute at three was annoying, embarrassing, and obnoxious at eight, ten or twelve. Things moved from “stand up and sing” to “sit down and shut up”. The problem was, the die had been cast at three, and when it starts that early it never goes away. That craving for the spotlight and acclaim still burns, no matter the age. Fame and popularity are addictive, and like narcotic drugs, are a very hard habit to kick.
Simon had probably been in the spotlight for a very long time, and when it shifted to where it belonged, the gospel of Christ, Simon suddenly found himself going cold turkey. His heart was right enough to respond to the gospel, but old habits die hard. Like an addict, when the opportunity for one more moment of fame came along he gave in to the temptation. Peter pointed him to the right remedy: repentance. Simon needed to turn his heart back to Christ, so that he could be saved from himself and his addiction.
God imparts various gifts, talents and abilities to each of us as He see fit for His own purposes. Satan will attempt to twist them and tempt us with the desire to use them for our self-glorification. It may be as innocent as wondering why God would give me this talent and how I can use it to make Him AND me look good. For us, glory borrowed is glory stolen. Just as Eve was tempted to eat the fruit so she could become like God, any gift we incorrectly use for the purpose of shining the light on ourselves becomes corrupted. It corrodes and ultimately destroys our soul, because a little glory is never enough; we always need more and more. It takes God off the throne of our lives and plants us solidly in place as the god of our life. And we all know how that turns out.
We must first and foremost keep our hearts right before God. We do that by surrendering ourselves to Him through Jesus Christ, and daily putting our sinful and selfish desires to death. When our goal is to please and honor God in all things, He empowers us with the gifts He has given us to accomplish His purposes. As we bring glory to God, some of it falls back on us. Not because of who or what we are, but because we are the servants and ambassadors of a magnificent God.