Latin, literally, for let the buyer beware.
“Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 8:17-19) Let’s just stop right there and round out the rest of this story. Simon (a different Simon than Peter) up till this point had had the entire city in thrall through his sorcery. Verse 13 says that he “believed also…and was baptized” but as we shall soon see, there were still some things that needed working out in his inner life. Magic. Money. Spirituality. Jesus. While all four are real, or “real”. The only source of true power–power that won’t absolutely corrupt–is Him.
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
That feeling. A feeling of fleeting invincibility. That you could go out and do anything. Anything, that is, until you realize that you have bills to pay and maybe some debt (student or otherwise). Family, food, clothing, etc. I look down at my pay stub and realize I should be grateful I have a job to begin with. When it’s all said and done, numerals and decimal places don’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. Notice how money wends its way through the Bible. Jesus is betrayed by Judas for the modest sum of “thirty pieces of silver” (see Matthew 26:15). The entire army of Israel suffers defeat at the hands of Ai because of one man’s greed (Achan made off with the not-so-modest “hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight…” Joshua 7:21). If money had to negatively symbolize anything, it would be the promise of an intangible freedom and ability to “come and go as we please”. And if that’s not power–power in its basest form, I don’t know what is. Freedom and liberty are things that God gives but they’re never divorced from His person. He is that freedom, that carelessness. That liberty that we so desire and work and slave for. God gives it freely–yet it costs something. It costs the laying down of that thing we seek to keep alive, namely, power. “For there is no power but of God…” (Romans 13:1)
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11, emphasis mine) I believe that God is the most liberating and joyful and enjoyable person in existence. To where time stands still in His presence while we play. Thing is, if you don’t like Him, where else are you going to go for that sort of thing?
The story continues. Peter hears Simon’s offer and becomes incensed: “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 20-23)
I can only imagine the sting Peter felt when he hears Simon offer to buy the Holy Ghost. What looks to be an innocent mistake is met with the fire of God’s censure spoken through Peter. I’m sure he recalls, not just Judas’ betrayal of the Lord, but his own, too. When he tells Simon “Thou has neither part nor lot in this matter” he is talking about maintaining the purity of what Jesus began through the twelve. Something that was breached (and healed with Matthias; see Acts 1:26) after Judas betrayed them and then killed himself. Later on in Acts, Ananias seeks to “keep back part of the price of the land” (5:3) and loses his life as a result. And now we come to the second reason for money.
It’s funny how two statements can have opposing connotations. You can either do your job and make money. Or make money as in “manufacture” it. With the second definition, I find it amusing how the law prevents us from counterfeiting money. In a very practical sense we, in and of ourselves, have no ability to make something worth anything–at least to someone else. Someone else who lives under the same national auspices as do we. This is why it’s illegal. An individual passing off homemade bills is not doing anyone else a favor. When Simon tries to buy the Holy Spirit from Peter, it’s as if he was seeking to devalue Him, saying that the measly few bucks on his person was enough to warrant a commodity that cost the very blood of Jesus in order to make available to the entire world.
Money is essential. Money can be liberating and empowering. But keep things in perspective. Peter cites “the gall of bitterness” and a “bond of iniquity” as reasons why he couldn’t receive the Holy Spirit. May we all search our hearts and spiritually Spring clean them for traces of such. Two things that, if there, an abundance of funds will only strengthen.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (Hebrews 12:14-15)
And “outdated currency” is an oxymoron.