Gehazi’s Greed

This morning I was reading stories about the prophet Elisha to my three year old and the one that stuck with me was of what happened after the Syrian army commander Naaman was healed of his leprosy.

Naaman was so grateful to Elisha for helping him that he wanted to give him gifts but the prophet turned him down, saying, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.”  Naaman tried to persuade him otherwise but Elisha refused. 

Gehazi, Elisha’s servant didn’t like that fact that his master didn’t take the gift Naaman was so eager to give.  He thought to himself, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”  He ran after Naaman.  Actually, he pursued him.  That’s how desparate he was to get something out of the army commander.

Naaman saw him running after him and he got down from the chariot to see what was up.  His question was one of concern.  “Is all well?” At that point my conscience would have pricked me.  But not so for Gehazi.  His response was,  “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’”

Of course, Naaman was obliging.  He gave Gehazi what he asked for, believing that Elisha had sent him and that he was helping two young men.  Gehazi hid the gifts and when Elisha asked him where he was, he lied to him.  Greed makes people lie, cheat and steal.  My husband and I marvelled that this man who had been a servant of a man of God for a long time would think that he could lie to him and get away with it.

Elisha was on to him.  He must have been so disappointed.  He confronted him with these words, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?  Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.

Gehazi tried to profit off of Naaman and ended up worse for it.  He probably thought that Elisha was foolish not to receive Naaman’s token of gratitude but what he failed to realize is that Elisha did not help Naaman for gain.  That’s not how this man of God works.  He helped people without expecting anything in return.

It’s hard to believe that someone would risk so much just to take something from someone.   His actions not only affected him but his descendents.  What good did the things he deceived Naaman into giving him do him?  What comfort would the silver offer him?

Naaman was a far more honorable man than Gehazi.  When the servant had asked him for a talent, the army commander insisted in giving him two talents.  That was how generous he was and how happy he was to help Elisha (so he thought) who had helped him.   

We must never allow worldly possessions, money or anything lead us astray.  Our reward as servants of God is not material things but seeing the fruit of our labor–the satisfaction of knowing that we are making a difference–that we are glorifying and honoring God with good service.  Gehazi took advantage of Naaman’s generosity and was punished for it.

A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, And does not consider that poverty will come upon him (Proverbs 28:22).  This was the fate of Gehazi.  His greed brought his more than he had bargained for.  It brought upon him a disease that would plague him for the rest of his life.  His greed for money robbed him of life (Proverbs 1:19).  Naaman had a lot going for him but he was a leper.  Leprosy was a horrible, incurable disease and it slowly led to death.  This is why Naaman rejoiced when he was cured of it.  This is why he wanted to repay Elisha.

Now Gehazi faced a bleak future with this horrible disease.  The things he had gotten through ill gain no longer mattered.  They could not but be a bitter reminder of why he was in this wretched state he was in now.  “We see here a pagan who by an act of faith is cured of leprosy and an Israelite who by an act of dishonor is cursed with it.” (Dilday)  Gehazi coveted what Naaman had–his riches but he ended up getting his disease as well.  It’s like Eve who coveted the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  She got the fruit and more than she bargained for. 

What happened to Gehazi should be a lesson for all of us.  We should not covet what others have.  We should not be greedy and dishonest.  Gehazi hid the things from Elisha which meant that he knew what he had done was wrong.

What irony.  A Gentile received healing while a Hebrew received a curse.

What my husband learned from this story was Gehazi should have known better.  He should not have lied to Elisha, the man of God.  Elisha refused to accept Naaman’s gift because what he did for the Syrian was an act of kindness.  It was a free service.  Gehazi lied to a prophet which didn’t make any sense.  He should have asked Elisha outright why he didn’t accept Naaman’s gift.   My husband felt that being cursed with leprosy was too harsh of a punishment for Gehazi.  He was of no use to Elisha now.  My husband felt that Elisha should have just sent him away.  I think that Elisha’s reasoning was that Gehazi was getting exactly what he deserved for being greedy and dishonest.

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