“When Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 8:18, 19).
Who hasn’t dreamed of being handed $1 million? Scores of people must—as the lottery business demonstrates—even though their chances of winning big are quite small. And if they do end up with an unexpectedly huge wad of cash, how will they use it? Some live happily ever after, while others end up drunk, broke, in jail, or chased by the IRS.
How do you separate the wise from the foolish winners of big cash? Just ask Stephen Danish. This professor of psychology has studied winners and can tell you how well or how poorly a person will handle a giant windfall. He listens to them talk about the future. If he hears them focus only on spending the money, he knows they’re in trouble. But if they talk about what they want to accomplish with the money, he knows they will be OK.
Simon Magus knew exactly how he would spend his cash if he won the lottery. When the sorcerer of Samaria heard Philip preach the gospel and saw the apostle perform miracles, he decided to believe and get baptized. After watching Peter and John lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit, he wanted in on the action, even offering to buy this gift.
Peter saw through Simon’s selfishness and told 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). Simon didn’t want the gift of the Spirit to serve others; he wanted this power for his own ego.
Sadly, Simon’s heart appears to have remained unchanged. Even though he asked Peter to pray for him, his focus was still on himself. Not even money can transform a life. The power of the Spirit comes only to the truly repentant.
O Lord, my daily prayer is that You will increase in my life and that I will decrease.
For Further Study: Acts 8:9–24; 1 Timothy 6:10; John 3:30