Simon acted like he was on the television program, “Let’s Make a Deal.” He thought that if he offered the disciples (and God) some money that he would be able to receive the Holy Spirit. His spoken intention was good. He wanted to have the Holy Spirit so that he could lay his hands on people and transfer the Holy Spirit on to them. In truth though, Simon wanted the honor and attention that the disciples were attracting as they prayed for people and received the Holy Spirit.
We shouldn’t be too critical of Simon. We often act the same way. We try to make a deal with God in order to have God answer our prayer or give us one of our desires. We promise to drop a few more dollars in the collection plate, to increase our worship attendance or to register for a small group. God isn’t in the deal business, but rather God is in the grace business.
The opposite of asking ourselves what we can do to persuade God is to admit that we can do nothing to entice God to act. All that we have is a gift. We can stop bragging about all that we have done and humbly acknowledge all that God has done. Instead of looking around for more, we can concentrate on using what we have. We will discover that we always have enough to do what God’s calls us to do.
Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city. Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power 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 God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.” Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.