Who is Simon? What is a tanner?
And what does it possibly have to do with life in the 21st century?
I’m glad you asked. Walk with me through the halls of ancient history and discover valuable lessons and observations that will help you navigate through life’s mysteries today.
There are two scripture (Bible) verses about Simon, a tanner, and to all appearances, they pertain to the same time period – one event.
In Acts 9:43, we find these words about the Apostle Peter: “And it came to pass that he (Peter) tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon, a tanner.”
Then in Acts 10:6, which seems to be a short time after, God instructed Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian band, to seek out Peter. Cornelius was a man who worshipped God. Many men sought after God’s direction who were not Jews.
Cornelius was told by God to seek out a man called Simon, in Joppa (city), and there he, Cornelius, would find Peter.
So in Acts 10:6, we find the following:
(He), Peter lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea side; He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
So – what does this mean? The Bible verse seems to be telling us that Peter has a message for Cornelius. And Cornelius is directed to where Peter is. Is there any significance here concerning Simon the tanner? Yes, indeed!!
Who was Simon, anyway, and what was this all about?
Now this Simon was a tanner by trade. A tanner was a tradesman who processed animal hides, treated them, and made them into leather. We all know about leather. Today we highly prize articles crafted from leather. We have leather boots, sandals, wallets and purses, and many items of utility in addition to apparel, shoes and personal items. Leather boots remain very popular today, although rather expensive. Leather as a finished product is beautiful, pliable and more durable than many other materials in use today.
Let’s now dig into the treasures beneath the surface of these two brief references of Scripture.
Simon was evidently a follower of God, a Christian (Christ-follower), and he had a successful trade. He dwelt by the seaside.
Why there? Because the foul odor of his trade made Simon (and every other tanner of hides) quite unwelcome anywhere in the city. By the sea, most of the odor from Simon’s trade would be carried out to sea and dissipated. Simon was not welcome anywhere in the city. I’m not blaming anyone for that, these were just the facts in those old days.
What can be said about Simon and his trade? His product resulted in good.
His work was rather thankless and dirty, but the end result was exceptionally useful and highly prized.
Now, compare Simon as a Christian and God-follower to those of like faith today. The odor of a Christian (meaning the beliefs of the Christian) in today’s society often makes us, the believers, unwelcome in the halls of science, politics, government or philosophy. Out bodies, as believers, do not stink, but our dearly held beliefs certainly stink in the eyes of many.
The weak Christian who says or does little to disrupt the elitist, humanist philosophers of society, the promoters of authoritarian government, are not so likely to be despised as the committed Christian. In their eyes, better that we be neither seen nor heard!
So, we Christians are “Simon the Tanners” in the eyes of the Left – Socialists, Communists, Marxists, and radicals of all stripes.
You may be wondering, just how, in detail, are Christians of today thought of and treated by those who don’t believe as we do? I’m speaking here of committed believers, and even more so about conservative and Constitution-loving Christians.
Why are we hated by the left? Those who aim (even as we speak) to enslave us, along with anyone who disagrees with them?
I propose that those who do NOT believe in radicalism, socialism, communism, etc. are the “TRUE” Simon the Tanners of today.
If You Could Look Through Their Worldview Lens…
We are considered to be dumb and ignorant and incapable of governing ourselves.
We are the smelly Wal-Mart people, the “basket of Deplorables” (Hillary Clinton says). There is no hope for us, because the only people who can rule us (they say) are the people of “science,” understanding, leadership and intelligence (all defined to promote only themselves and their views of the world).
They say the rest of society doesn’t have any of these skills and qualities, so they are incapable of understanding and knowing what is good for them.
In other words, “You all are dumb sheep!”
A Recurring Biblical Theme?
I can take you through dozens and dozens of Bible illustrations that mirror Simon the Tanner!
If you miss them, you will miss the many ways in which God operates, and the many lessons in life that you could learn from them to apply to your NOW.
I don’t see any evidence that Simon the Tanner whined and howled about where he had to live and conduct his trade. I see nothing except his welcoming of the Apostle Peter, who was certainly about the business of God and the spreading of the Gospel.
Simon evidently trusted in God. He was to tell Peter what to do next.
Note that God didn’t tell a KING to give His message to Peter. He told a TRADESMAN – a man whose very trade was despised by the city people.
Do you remember Jesse, the father of David? He had 8 sons.
David, the youngest, was assigned the lowest position possible, a shepherd of sheep. Shepherding was considered (although essential) to be the lowest of the low as far as career paths go. When Samuel, the prophet, came to anoint one of the boys to be the King over Israel, Jesse didn’t even bother to call David from the field! It was only after Samuel asked if he had any more sons, that David was brought before him. And the rest (as they say) is history!
Now the question is – did any of David’s brothers get to be a King, or ascend to any other position of great importance? If so, the Bible doesn’t record it.
But David’s great faithfulness in doing the task before him with excellence, while loving his sheep and his God, literally promoted him to a Kingship that is considered by many to be the most distinguished in the history of the world!
Job Description of a Shepherd: Would You Apply?
There are many factors involved in caring for sheep that few know about or would even consider (After all, I highly doubt you’ve seen a job advertisement for a shepherd with an enticing benefits package).
Those who kept sheep in the old Bible days, walked with the sheep, slept beside the sheep, were in pastures with the sheep (whether good or bad pastures). And I’m told that shepherds also smelled like the sheep. Literally.
And yet there are still other reasons to downgrade the lowly shepherds of the Bible. They endured heat and cold, they chased after sheep that wandered around aimlessly at times, and had to have the shepherd’s hand of protection lest they get lost and become victims of wolves, bears and lions. David killed his share of ravenous, vicious animals who intended to fleece him of his flock!
Shepherds were not only looked down upon; they often didn’t even have proper home care or even a home environment most of the time. Today, their jobs would be classified as “dirty jobs.”
Are You Unwelcome? Misunderstood?
I believe, quite sadly, that many Christians, as well as those who may not yet be believers in Christ, are living in a world where their beliefs and actions in regards to their fellowman are not welcomed. Their actions are often misunderstood, because too many people live selfish lives. They fail to recognize truth and those who speak truth.
Of course, we are discovering that many do not want to understand any belief other than their own (even if their belief is authoritarian and makes slaves of all but the ruling elite).
God often conducts His business and His desires for mankind through people of lowly station in this earthly life.
He does not always trust those with the importance of Kings, etc. God looks on the heart, not the position or the degree. He sees who can be trusted with His plan. His business is entrusted to those who love Him and follow Him.
Are you one of life’s “lowlies?”
You may not be a Simon the Tanner or a Lowly Shepherd Boy, or an overlooked member of society.
But are you reliable and faithful?
If you are, God can use you – perhaps to accomplish great things for His kingdom!