Acts 8. 20-23
Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
A Word of Hope
The above passage from the Book of Acts gives us a glimpse of the Apostle Peter rebuking a person the Scripture calls Simon the Sorcerer. The story tells us of this man Simon who was well known in his village for doing amazing things. We don’t know what these things were. The term sorcerer was applied to a number of people who lived extraordinary lives compared to the average first century citizen. It was a broad term.
Extraordinary people included astrologers and astronomers such as the Magi who brought gifts to the Christ Child. “Magi” derives from the same root word as “magician”. People with high levels of education such as the ability to read were thought of in the same way; understanding the symbols of letters being in the same category as reading tea leaves or interpreting dreams. The Prophet Daniel was certainly considered a wizard in his day. The prophets Miriam, Huldah, and Anna were also members of the elite, extraordinary, even magical individuals in their eras. Acts we would categorize today as genuine magic were practiced by the Pharaoh’s court magicians and matched trick-for-trick by Moses’ brother, Aaron.
We don’t know where Simon the Sorcerer would have actually been included in the first century’s book of spells, but certainly his influence was significant and he had a legion of followers. His backstory to Peter’s harsh words involved his witnessing some of the miracles performed in Jesus’ name by the Apostles and deciding to follow the way of Jesus himself. Being completely new to the faith, one of his first requests was how he might be able to buy some of these miraculous abilities himself. The Apostle Peter, in his usual less-than-subtle style, lashed out and condemned Simon for his honest response rather than explaining that the Way of the Lord was not found in a box of magic tricks. We can only hope that Simon later was offered a more thorough Christian education by Phillip or one of the other less emotional Disciples who were also present that day.
There are many among us today, who like Simon, think that money, and often huge amounts of it, can pave their own streets of gold toward power and control in the church. We know them.
Most of them have their own cable network shows. I can visualize that their own Christian walk was probably not grounded in Jesus’ love doctrine at its very start. It is not likely that either rebuke or reason will ever change them. I am, however, grateful that there are still a lot of Phillips in the world who can teach and guide new followers of Christ that the wealth of a giving and loving spirit is an invaluable gift that can never be bought.
Thank you for the gift of eternal grace and for the patient teachers who nurture our understanding of an honest faith.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare