Leprous Greed

Leprous Greed February 9, 2006

Leprous Greed

2 Kings 5:20-27

Have you ever seen someone refuse money that you thought was good to take for yourself? Have you ever said: “Man, I could use that money.”

It is said in another verse that money is the root of all kinds of evil. Here in 2 Kings we see an illustration of that principle. Gehazi was a servant of the prophet Elisha. Gehazi was in the ministry working with Elisha. Elisha has just healed a man of leprosy named Naaman. Naaman offered to pay for the Elisha’s services, but Elisha refused the offer.

This is where the thoughts of greed start. Your ethics are sometimes not the same ethics as some other minister. Elisha had good reason not to take the money. But Gehazi saw nothing wrong with taking a little profit from some healing service.

It is not clear why Elisha did not take the money. Although, one indication may be that Elisha wanted to be responsible to God and so he decided not have anything interfere with that responsibility. Or perhaps Elisha knew that money was a bad temptation to him and so he wanted to avoid it. The Bible only acknowledges that Elisha wanted to keep his relationship with God clean.

Elisha’s statement may point to a deeper concern, which is this: Who healed Naaman? Elisha knew that it was God who healed Naaman, and to keep that clear in his mind, he refused to take money for this service. By not taking money, Elisha wouldn’t later say – “I healed Naaman.” No one else could make that claim as well. No one else would be able to say: “Hey, Elisha took money for healing Naaman. Is Elisha really a prophet or what?”

But Gehazi knew how Naaman thought about this miraculous event. Gehazi knew that Naaman would be walking away thinking that he should pay for this healing. Naaman, just like most people who are good and honorable, would think it is right to pay for something that was given to him.

I am quite sure we all have experienced this feeling at one time or another. You go somewhere and someone does something for you. For example, someone comes and fixes the kitchen sink, or repairs the car. You offer to pay and the person rejects the offer. You thank that person, but when you leave, you still think you should pay someone for something that was done. It just isn’t right to get a free lunch. Everything costs and we should be at least willing to pay for the service.

This is how Naaman was thinking. He was thinking to himself as he walked back – Hey, this is great! I have my life back. But I want to repay Elisha in some way. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, comes to meet Naaman. This is where the greed sets in.

Gehazi knew Naaman’s feelings about the healing. Gehazi was willing to manipulate Naaman to make a little money on the side. Maybe Elisha wasn’t paying Gehazi enough to pay the bills at home. Maybe Gehazi was a schrewd opportunitist who say a way to make a quick buck. We don’t know Gehazi’s exact motives in approaching Naaman. But we do know that he came out to Naaman out of a sense of greed. He was willing to lie to Naaman in order to get what Gehazi was appropriate for the service that was performed.

Gehazi thought: Well, if Elisha won’t ask for the money, then I will. Of course, what can I say to let Naaman know that his money would be put to good use? Oh, there is some other ministry that Elisha didn’t mention. It is a mountain ministry to help poor people who live up there.

Naaman was eager to oblige. Clearly he gave a lot of money to this “new ministry”. He even used these two servants (who were probably unknowing partners in this “new ministry”) to take the money. Then Gehazi used his authority to keep the money in his possession.

But greed charges lots of interest against your character.

We don’t know what Gehazi was thinking when he talked to Elisha the next day to report. Elisha already had an idea of how this “new ministry” was going. Look at what Elisha claims that Gehazi stole from Naaman.

Gehazi took money, clothes, property, animals and servants. Gehazi had snickered Naaman out of an entire business operation. Instead of Gehazi’s ministry to the mountain folks, he was getting ready to start Gehazi’s Home and Garden business. Elisha saw this for what it was – pure greed at the expense of other people.

What was the cost for being greedy? Gehazi’s health obviously was a major cost. While I don’t think the Bible is saying everyone will get leprosy when they are greedy, I do think it is noteworthy that Gehazi’s health took a downturn for the worse. This happens when we tend to be too greedy. Greed promotes more greed, and this affects us physically. We will work for more money until we don’t have our health anymore.

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