Easter 6 (April 27)
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.”
The center of this little story is Simon’s attempt to “buy the Holy Spirit franchise” from Peter and John. We learn in an earlier text that Simon was a local “magician” who had some power before the disciples showed up. People started converting—including Simon. But Simon lost his “status.” So it looks like here he’s trying to get it back. Peter’s reply suggests he does not look favorably on Simon’s request.
The larger issue here is the effort to “commodify” the Spirit (i.e., to turn it into something that can be bought and sold). The Spirit has many layers of meaning—it brings illumination/insight, healing, freedom, and so on. More basically, it is the Spirit of life itself. (Remember Genesis 2.) So the by trying to “commodify” the Spirit we are trying to “commodify” life itself. Life is a gift from God; to treat it otherwise is to be (according to Peter) “in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” In what ways do we try to “commodify” life?