Acts 8:18-20 – Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”
The Simon in this account is a magician who had lived for a while thinking himself to be of some importance, that is, until the gospel reached his town. But when the followers of Jesus came to town, the people turned to Jesus. Even Simon believed, according to verse 13. Then Simon witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on people that came after the laying on of the apostles’ hands (something which uniquely happened in the Book of Acts when the gospel spread to a new people group). Simon, who was used to having the power and getting what he wanted, approached the apostles asking to buy from them this ability. But Peter, as we see above, responds to Simon with a very strong rebuke.
I wonder how many of us live our Christian lives looking for the next source of power. How many would offer money to buy a gift from God if we thought it might work? How many of us live as though we do buy gifts from God, not with money, but with good behavior or faithful service? How many feel that we buy favor from God every time we enter the church, sing a song, or drop an envelop into the offering basket?
How ever many of us do the things listed above, none of these things are acceptable. God never called us to seek after the thrill of spiritual experiences. He calls us to seek him, not to seek the power rush that his Holy Spirit can give us. And he most certainly can not be bought. God’s gifts are just that, gifts. You can not buy a gift from God. No amount of good behavior, money, worship, or obedience will ever earn you some sort of earthly favor from God. Good behavior certainly does not guarantee earthly comforts; just look at the fact that this account comes in the middle of tremendous persecution of the Jerusalem church. The Lord specifically warned us in Matthew 6 not to seek treasures and rewards on earth, but to seek the true treasure that is in heaven. Such a treasure is not bought with money.
The ultimate example of the evil that we see in Simon from this passage is present in the person who believes that their good behaviors will earn them access to heaven. Many, if not most, in the world today believe that their eternal destiny depends on how well their good deeds outweigh their bad. They are trying to buy the gift of eternal life by paying in a certain number of good works like church attendance, financial giving, charity work, kindness, etc. But God’s greatest gift, the gift of eternal life, is not for sale. Eternal life is a gift that can only be received by the one who humbly accepts it from Christ. We offer God nothing to earn it. We can not pay him back. To try to pay for it is, in fact, the most insulting thing that we could ever do, because it shows how little we think it to be worth.
Lord, I come to you this morning, and I ask that you forgive me for any time in my life that I have ever sought earthly gifts ahead of seeking you. I want to be in your presence, to know you and love you. I do not need earthly comforts for that. I pray that you will also forgive me for any time that I have had the audacity to believe that my giving of worship or money would ever buy for me worldly comforts. You did not design me for such trivialities. You designed me for eternity. I long for the eternal treasure of being in your presence. I know that I can not buy such a reward, for it is a gift from you. I will not try to earn your gifts. I will receive them from your gracious hand. Please, Lord, grant me the greatest gift of all, to be involved in the honoring of your name.