When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 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.” (Acts 8:18-23)
This Simon was originally practicing magic in the city of Samaria, and even arrogantly claimed to be the messenger of God. Later, when Philip spread the gospel to Samaria, he also accepted the gospel and was baptized. When the apostles learned that the Samaritans believed the gospel, they asked Peter and John to go there and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the apostles had the power to send the Holy Spirit down, he also wanted to have it. Simon thought that the gift could be bought with money, so he directly took the money and wanted to buy the power from the apostles to call down the Holy Spirit. The apostles naturally rejected Simon’s absurd request. We can see from Peter's severe rebuke that Simon’s heart was not right because he wanted to use money to buy this gift to satisfy his own desires, not to serve God and His church.
In fact, this kind of wickedness still exists in the church today. People seek spiritual gifts not to serve God and the church but to achieve their own personal purpose.
Some people seek spiritual gifts in order to make their own name known, to make themselves feel more powerful and spiritual, to have others exalt them, and to make themselves better before others. These things often occur in charismatic churches, or in some churches where the believers desperately pursue the gifts such as speaking in a tongue or healing. I have had this kind of experience before. At that time, I pursued spiritual gifts mainly because I wanted to be a member of the spiritual elite, so as not to be inferior to others.
Some people seek spiritual gifts to get more benefits. Some people even seek spiritual gifts out of jealousy or comparison. When they see others have such gifts, they also want them.
There are not only some people in the church seeking spiritual gifts for personal selfish desires like Simon, but some also use money to buy spiritual authority like he wanted. Sometimes people use their donation to ask the church to give them positions to gain spiritual authority.
Spiritual gifts are given to people by the Holy Spirit as He wills, not according to man's own decision. When people seek spiritual gifts, they seek God’s mercy and He is still sovereign. The Holy Spirit gave His gifts to His people to build the church. In other words, spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit is given to people to serve God and the church, not for their own desires.
Today, we must once again reflect on whether we are seeking God’s spiritual gifts to better serve Him and His church or to satisfy our own selfish desires. If it is not to serve God and His church, we must repent before God and pray for his mercy and forgiveness. Those who possess spiritual gifts and authority must also be alert not to fall into temptation and offend God.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu