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3 Dangers of Prioritizing Influence Over Integrity from Acts 8

Aubrey Sampson

Pastor, Author, Podcast Cohost
Published May 02, 2024
3 Dangers of Prioritizing Influence Over Integrity from Acts 8

What we find in Acts eight is that there is a contrast between false power and the true, Jesus-centered power that is rooted in humility and love.

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What we find in Acts eight is that there is a contrast between false power and the true, Jesus-centered power that is rooted in humility and love. In Acts chapter eight, we meet a man called Simon the Sorcerer, who referred to himself (and others called him this as well) as “The Great Power of God.”  Read Acts 8: 9-13 below:

"Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw."

I’ve got some friends who are online dating right now, and they will sometimes send me a guy’s profile. I’ll either respond with a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or even a thumbs sideways. Let me tell you, if a girlfriend sent me Simon the Sorcerer’s profile, I’d be like RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. The guy is a row of red flags.

What Does the Bible Say about Sorcery? 

Luke, the author of Acts, points out a few obvious red flags. First of all, Simon practiced sorcery – which is a big no-no in the Bible. Sorcery is demonic power; it’s trickery. It enslaves people. This goes back to the Old Testament in Exodus when the Pharoah had enslaved the Israelite people, and a leader named Moses was called by God to them free. The whole scene became a battle between God’s cosmic power and Pharoah’s magicians. Pharoah’s sorcerers kept people enslaved, while God’s formidable power led to freedom.

How Does Scripture Address Accumulating a 'Platform?'

Second, Simon’s power was all about gaining his own followers—his own little collection of people. In contemporary terms, Simon is after more subscribers, listeners, and consumers. He is trying to collect more followers to wield more influence over them. We see, in Acts 8, a clear contrast between Simon and the followers of Jesus. Read the entire story:

"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
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.”
Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
- Acts 8:4-24

What Sets a Follower of Jesus Apart?

Again, we find some obvious contrasts:

  • Philip's signs and wonders, as a follower of Jesus, led to more followers of Jesus (not himself).
  • Simon boasted in himself. But followers of Jesus boasted in Jesus.
  • Simon was a showman. The followers of Jesus were shepherds.
  • Simon tried to buy the Spirit of God to use. Followers of Jesus saw the Spirit as the real Great Power of God, to be submitted to.
  • Simon wouldn’t pray, but throughout the passage, we see followers of Jesus praying and ministering to others.

What is the Modern Relevance of Acts 8?

Why does this matter in 2024? In this day and age, we’ve all known a Simon – someone who is all about impressing people with their power, their talent, their skillset. Maybe it’s a political leader, a church leader, or an influencer. What we find in Acts eight is that there is a contrast between false power and the true, Jesus-centered power that is rooted in humility and love. But the difficulty is that the “Simons” in this world are easy to fall for. Why? Because they are charming, talented, and impressive. So without realizing it, we buy what they are selling. 

3 Common Reactions to Powerful and Popular People:

I think we need to be honest about our reactions to the Simons in our lives. We tend to do one of three things (or some combination of all three):

1. We give them our power, time, money, energy, and following

We get wrapped up in a weird attraction to people who seem like they have some special, elite anointing or secret sauce. And because of our brokenness or our insecurity, we think they’ll fill some hole in us. Or because of their money, means, or influence—or maybe they are at the “table” where we want to sit—before we know it, we are giving that deference and honor. For no other reason than the perception, they give off that they have power.

2. There’s also something in us—it’s not just that we just want to be near the perceived elite people. If we’re being really honest, it’s that we want to be them

We want to be “The Great Power of God” ourselves. Now, we are socialized enough to be “humble” so we would never actually say that. We would never say, “I want to be the great power of God.” But if we’re being self-aware about our own souls, we must admit that sometimes in our insecurity and our messiness and our search for identity outside of Jesus – we strive and hope for certain people to look at us and go, “Oh, look at how likable they are. Look at how gifted they are. ow smart, or strong, or influential, or creative or talented, or good and right they are.” Whatever it is, we are so often after approval and admiration ourselves.

By the way, this is what the bile calls idolatry. And the thing about idols is that they may seem like your best friend. They are comforting, loving, and attractive. But soon you’re giving them your time, money, energy, and worship, and—just like false ”Simon” power—that idol will take you captive.

3. We allow our cynicism about the Simons of the world to control us

Maybe you are cynical, and rightly so, because you’ve seen far too many showmen in the church, in politics, online, or in other forms of leadership, and you are sick of it. That’s a godly cynicism; that’s a good sense of justice and righteousness. But the danger of cynicism, if you give it too much power, is that Evil will use it in such a way that you will end up allowing the toxic power of showmen/show-women to have so much power over you, that they cause you to walk away from Jesus and Christian community and the Spirit’s work in your life.

If you’re a cynic, let your cynicism be an invitation—not to bitterness—to Jesus and life in the Christian community, and surrender to the Spirit of God. That’s where the real power is.

The End Game of Chasing Popularity

Any “Simon” will lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment. So don’t waste your worship on anyone other than Jesus. Don’t waste your time, money, or energy. Only Jesus satisfies. Only Jesus fulfills his promises. Only Jesus transforms, heals, and fills us. Only Jesus has real power.

3 Ways to Avoid Falling for False Influence

One more thing. If you find yourself in category number two, wanting to be a bit too much like Simon, with all that power. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. How do you introduce yourself? Where do you place your value? How do you “name” yourself? Do you see yourself primarily as loved by God, a child of God, or are you trying to earn your worth and gain approval? Do you live like you have something to prove? You can rest in Jesus – and live from your approval, not for it. Simon identified himself as someone with great power, but this identity was upside down. He was living for approval, not from it. He was arrogant, not humble. Your invitation is to put your identity in Jesus- and let him define you. You can live from approval in Christ; not for it. That’s where the freedom is. 
  2. What are your “so thats”? Notice the moments you say or pray or think something like, “God, please just give me more money so that I can finally be more generous and at peace.” Or, “God, change this person or this circumstance so that I can finally be happy.” Simon’s “so that” was broken. He wanted the Spirit of God, “so that” he could impress people. Pay attention to when you find yourself putting conditions on God. That’s you trying to lead God, not the other way around. God wants your burden- he loves to hear your heart. But the invitation is to allow God to lead you into his best for you- not to manipulate God. 
  3. When do you find yourself bitter reactive, or jealous? Peter called Simon bitter - that was part of his ego and sin at work. I don’t know about you, but I tend to notice my bitterness rising up anytime I find myself thinking something like, “Must be nice”- it must be nice to have what they have. Must be nice to live in that house. It must be nice to have that job. Pay attention to bitterness rising up in you, and invite God to transform your heart.

God’s invitation for you is to love and transform those places so that you can experience something more—more freedom, more rest, more joy, more wholeness, and more of the Spirit’s power—rather than the toxic power of the showmen and showwomen in this world. As Acts 1:8 says, 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The point is – true power comes not from influence or arrogance but from God. 

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Mike Powell


Aubrey SampsonAubrey Sampson is a pastor, author, speaker, and cohost of the podcast, Nothing is Wasted. She is the author of Big Feeling Days, The Louder Song, Overcomer, and her newest release, Known. Find and follow her @aubsamp on Instagram. Go to aubreysampson.com for more. 

This article originally appeared on Christianity.com. For more faith-building resources, visit Christianity.com. Christianity.com