“Peter said, ‘To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable — trying to buy God’s gift! You’ll never be a part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes. Change your ways, and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you. You reek with money-lust.’

“‘Oh!’ said Simon, ‘Pray for me. Pray to the Master that nothing like that will ever happen to me.'” Acts 8:20-24 (The Message).

How difficult it was for this man who was so used to letting money talk for him, to change gears. In his world, money opened every door and bought him the power to con more money out of gullible people. They were easy pickings where the realm of the supernatural fascinated them but which they did not understand.

In God’s realm, His provision is freely given because the price was paid by His own Son. He sent His Spirit, not as a power superior to the devil to be used for people’s selfish ends, but as the presence of God Himself with and in His people. Through His people He would put His glory on display by transforming them into the image of His Son and by pouring out His abundant grace through them to meet people’s needs.

Simon failed to understand this new Way. He tried to add the “Jesus” Way to the way he was already following, not knowing that they led in opposite directions. He was on the path of greed and self-indulgence, manipulating people’s gullibility to gain popularity so that he could plunder their pockets.

The way of Jesus is the way of loving self-sacrifice, using money and resources to meet the needs of others in order to make their lives better. This demands a change of heart so radical that only the Holy Spirit can make it happen. Peter urged Simon to change his mind so that the Holy Spirit could change his heart.

Simon tried to buy this power to use the Holy Spirit for his own ends. Imagine how powerful and wealthy he could become if he want around dispensing the Holy Spirit for a “fee”! That idea came from the pit of hell and Simon woke up from his dream with a jolt when Peter exposed his heart.

It was to Simon’s credit that he acknowledged his error and begged Peter to pray for him. There is no record of Simon after this. Perhaps God’s grace rescued him from a life of self-destruction.

What is the lesson for us in this incident? There is a trend in the church today that is a dangerous deviation from the truth. Greed and self-indulgence are marketed under the guise of the “Prosperity Gospel.” The name-it-and-claim-it movement has been sugar-coated with teachings about faith – believing God “for” whatever our hearts fancy.

This is the very temptation Jesus repudiated. “Use God’s word to get what you want,” said the devil. Satan tried to lure Jesus into manipulating God into doing what He wanted by holding him to His word. “Jump,” said the devil, “God said He’d send His angels to catch you. You’ll impress the people and they will believe you,” he hissed. “No way!” said Jesus. “Daddy didn’t tell me to do that!”

Part of this “con”spiracy is to dangle the carrot in front of the unsuspecting donkey. By “sowing seed” into this ministry, you are guaranteed a “harvest” for yourself. So the ministry grows fat and so do you. If you sow your car, house, jewellery or whatever, God is obliged to give you something better.

Is this really what the Bible teaches?

Not at all! The Bible teaches us that we have an obligation to care for our pastors, our “storehouse” – the local church, our families and the orphan, the widow, the alien and the poor. When we do that, God reciprocates by taking care of our needs. The seed we sow produces a harvest which is both bread for us and seed to sow again. The outcome is that God gets the glory for being who He is, the abundantly generous God who always keeps His promises.

Meeting the needs of others is part of our duty to God. He is not obliged to reward us but He does because He chooses to do so.

Job is another case in point. God had to strip him down to the skin before he finally understood that God owed him nothing. Job was whining about God being unfair because he, Job, had been such a good man. God confronted him in a violent way, not a gentle chat, to show him that, although he thought he knew God, he knew nothing.

God is obliged to no-one. What He does and what He gives is purely because of who He is. His favour and generosity flow out of Himself, not as a reward for who we are or what we deserve.

“It is impossible,” said Jesus, “to serve two masters.” The moment we allow greed to control us, we have changed allegiance and slipped back into the dominion of darkness where we are driven towards self-destruction.

Luella Campbell

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