“Previous to Philip’s arrival, a certain Simon had practised magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers and called him “The Great Wizard.” He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him.

“But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God’s kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left! Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip’s shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn’t leave Philip’s side.” Acts 8:9-13 (The Message).

What was it about Philip and his message that caught Simon’s attention? He was a con man and was used to getting people’s attention and keeping them mesmerized by his trickery. His ego fed off the power and popularity he enjoyed, knowing full well that he was a fraud but basking in the control and wealth he gained through his lies.

When Philip interrupted his run of success, he probably thought he was just another con man like himself with superior skills that he needed to learn. So, having lost the popularity and interest of the people, he joined the new following in the hopes of learning the secret of Philip’s power. He shadowed Philip to find out how he did it. His real motive for becoming a believer did not surface until Peter and John arrived to find out what was going on in Samaria.

“When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-17 (The Message).

The scene was set for Simon to reveal his true colours. He was jubilant. He had seen for himself the secret of the power that Philip had and he had seen how he could be a part of the elite group who could dispense that power to whoever wanted it. This was better than he had ever dreamed possible!

“When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands, conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited, and said, ‘Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!'” Acts 8:18-19 (The Message).

Simon’s reaction revealed that his greedy heart had never been changed. He was still being motivated by the lust for power and money. He was willing to use his money for the opportunity to buy more power so that he could earn more money! That’s it! Bottom line!

How often Jesus used people’s attitude to money and possessions as the acid test of their inner life! The rich man who came to Him to find out what he had to do to earn eternal life was disillusioned when he was told that it was his money that stood between him and Jesus, and he walked away. Zaccheus, on the other hand, experienced true salvation which he evidenced by his attitude to his money and possessions. “‘Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor…'” Luke 19:8b (NIV). Only a changed heart can touch our pockets!

We either hold and use our money as a servant or we are held and used by it as slaves. Simon’s heart was exposed. His god was Mammon, and not even “belief” and “baptism” had changed him. Who or what reigns in your heart?

Luella Campbell

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