SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2011
SIMONY; A REALITY IN TODAY’S MINISTRY
‘When Simon saw that the spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered money to buy this power’ Acts. 8v18.
Simony is taken from Simon Magus, Acts 8v18-24. In the Canon Law, the word Simony bears a more extended meaning than in English Law. Simony according to the Canonists, says AyLiffe in his parergon: ‘is defined to be a deliberate act or premeditated will and desire of selling such things as are spiritual, or of anything annexed unto spirituals, by giving something of a temporal nature for the purchase thereof: or in other terms it is defined to be ‘a commutation of a thing spiritual or annexed unto spirituals by giving something that is temporal’. An example of the offence occurs as early as the 3rd century in the purchase of the Bishopric of Carthage by a wealthy matron for her servant, if the note to Gibbon (vol. 11. P. 457) is to be believed.
For the purposes of English Law, Simony is defined by Blackstone as ‘the corrupt presentation of any person to an ecclesiastical benefice for money, gift or reward’. The offence is one of purely ecclesiastical cognizance and not punishable by the Criminal Law. The penalty is forfeiture by the offender of any advantage from the Simonical transaction of his patronage by the patron of his benefice by the presentee and now by the Benefices Act 1892. A person guilty of Simony is guilty of an offence for which he may be proceeded against by the Clergy Discipline Act 1892.
During the middle ages, the church decreed severest penalties against its perpetrators. No wonder, Pope Julius II declared Simonical Papal elections invalid.
However, Simony traceable to Simon Magus as found in Acts 8v18-24 still persists. We can quickly add that Balaak had the same spirit, read numbers 22, 23, 24 and 25. And so, some Prophets and self styled preachers of today do have Simonical threat.
To this group, they still believe that they can buy spiritual favours, promotions, offices with money. Tacitly some of these Simonical preachers subtly engage in prosperity preaching. Yes they may intimidate, harass or hypnotize their flock and may hide under such enticing biblical scriptures as ‘your enemies shall die’, you will never be the tail but the head’ to rip off their gullible members. Ofcourse, their motivation may not be unconnected to money but they need to take to heart: ‘after all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows’. I Tim. 6v7-10.
‘Everything has a price’ seems to be true in our world of bribes, wealth and materialism. Simon thought he could buy the Holy Spirit’s power, but Peter rebuked him. Why? The only way to receive God’s power is to do what Peter told Simon to do – repent, ask God for forgiveness, and be filled with his spirit. No amount of money can buy salvation, forgiveness of sin, or God’s power. These are only gained by repentance and belief in Christ as Saviour. In addition, Simon apparently wanted that ability for selfish reasons: to have power, to make money or to gain prestige. God doesn’t give us abilities to enhance our own lives. He grants us gifts so that we may bring him glory by building up others. When you find yourself wishing for an ability that would put you into the limelight or somehow enrich you personally, check your motives. Instead of sitting around wishing for talents your don’t have, spend your time serving God and others with the gifts you do possess.
The last time a parent or friend rebuked you, were you hurt, angry or defensive? If you are rebuked for a serious mistake, it is for your good. Admit your error, repent quickly and ask for prayer. Simon Magus is a lesson. Peter rebuked him and he exclaimed: ‘pray to the Lord for me’.
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,