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How Much For A Blessings?

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! (Acts 8:18-20)

25 years ago, I attended the first of many Christian crusades as a brand-new convert. A friend had told me that a prophet was in town and that he was prophesying with great accuracy, so I wanted to see that. Many people attended. The worship experience was awesome and it prepared our hearts for the preaching of God’s Word, which we were all eagerly waiting for. Listening to this prophet for a whole hour speak spiritual truths from the Bible, I was impressed. But then, toward the end, this happened: after preaching his fiery message, he proceeded to make an altar call mixed with an appeal for money offerings as an act of faith to receive a supernatural blessing.

Those who would come up to give $1,000 or more would be laid hands on with a prophetic word. Those who’d give $500 would be prayed on with anointing oil, and for about $250 he would pray a special prayer of blessing on one’s life... The “deal” must have sounded appealing to a great number of people since a crowd of men and women moved out of their seats to line up in front of the stage, ready to make an offering for the promised blessings, be it a prophetic word, anointing oil or a special prayer. I couldn’t help but to wonder if God would bless me that day. You see, I was a young student with no job, who had just recently fallen in love with Jesus. I had no money. Well, I had a few bucks in my pocket, but the travelling prophet didn’t ask for change, so… I prayed the following prayer, in my heart: “Lord, by any chance, would you have a blessing for $5?”.

Have you ever pulled out your wallet in church (or at a Christian event) believing that it was the “encouragement” God needed to move supernaturally in your life? I used to think something like that. Today, years later, I can humbly say that I know better.

This magician who wants what we have

The Bible tells us that there was a man named Simon who also seemed to think that the Holy Spirit could be summoned with money. Oh, how he thought wrong! But who could blame him? He was a magician! He most certainly made a living performing his magical tricks for a pay. So when he saw that the Holy Spirit was given to the believers as the apostles lay hands on them, he wanted that power too. Now the Scriptures don’t actually specify what evidence came with the Spirit that day. Some suggest that they spoke in tongues just like on the day of Pentecost, while others argue that there was no such evidence accompanying this spiritual experience.

Whether the believers on whom the apostles laid hands on spoke in tongues or not, one thing is certain: for this experienced magician, – of whom the Bible also says that he was used to so impressing the crowds that his magic was attributed to God’s power –, to make such a request, he had to have seen or heard something so impressive to him that he became convinced that the Holy Spirit is real and that having this power would bring his career to a whole other level. Otherwise, I doubt he would have pulled out his wallet to pay for it. However, this “faux pas” revealed that something was not right with his heart. And Peter confirmed it with particularly harsh words. You can’t pay God (or a man of God) to receive something that God already gives for free. As you’re reading this, you may be reminiscing about instances when you pulled out your wallet, maybe encouraged by an eloquent speaker, to “pay” for something that Jesus already gave you access to… for free.

You can’t buy a blessing

Way back in the 1500s, through a practice called the indulgences, the Catholic Church would sell believers a place in heaven, so to speak. Here’s the theological concept in short: for an amount of money, believers would receive a certificate that would guarantee them a shorter stay in the purgatory for them and their family members. It was the lucrative business that made it possible for the then pope, Leon X, to finance the building of Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. This practice caused a monk named Martin Luther – inspired by his new understanding of the doctrine of salvation from his reading of the book of Romans – to write his now famous 95 theses, which was the spark that initiated the reformation movement led by the Protestants.

Today, in some Christian circles, it seems the practice of the Catholic indulgences has taken another form as believers are taught that their financial offering will unlock the supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit they desperately need in their lives. They are promised that if they give the right amount [of money], they will get material goods, miraculous healings, and all kinds of spiritual breakthroughs in return. Yet, when we follow Jesus’ and his disciples’ journey, many examples demonstrate that these things are always given freely on the basis of faith. No wonder Jesus told Lazarus’ sister, right before waking him up from the dead, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God” (John 11:40). He did not say “If you make a good offering, God will do it!”.

It is our faith that “moves” the hand of God, not our wallet. There is certainly a place for financial offerings in the house of God, but the blessings that come with the gift of the Holy Spirit are definitely NOT for sale! Promising a supernatural manifestation in exchange for money is spiritual manipulation. And paying someone to receive from God a prophetic word, a healing or a spiritual breakthrough – just like one would pay to see a magician perform impressive tricks – is not good stewardship. The normal process of receiving blessings from God is to simply ask in faith and to trust Him with our needs.

Its’ free for us, but it cost something

God’s blessings are free to us, but they cost something: Jesus’ life, as He paid a great price on the cross to set us free from sin and evil, so that we could have free access to the Father. Isn’t that awesome news? Don’t make the same mistake as Simon the magician who thought he could buy his way to a blessing. Everyone can come to God by faith, even if you only have $5 in your pocket! And if you’re tempted to throw a few dollars in there hoping to speed up the process of answered prayer, that’s not what offerings are for. You might want to treat your wife or a friend to a nice restaurant instead.

Note: This article was first published on Promise Keepers Canada/ Impactus website under the title "The Cost Of A Blessing".

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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