What’s in it for me – the greed of Gehazi

Pride. Avarice. Gluttony. Lust. Sloth. Envy. Anger. Those are the so called “seven deadly sins.” But which is the deadliest? Which is the most dangerous for us in 21st Century Britain? Which sin is the most common?
Probably the answer is avarice: greed, selfishness, materialism. Of course greed is not a new sin. Jesus warned his disciples against greed on four separate occasions and the apostle Paul warned the Colossians against greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
But this morning we see greed in the life of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the prophet. This story gives us two examples to follow, an opposite example of a sin to avoid, and a solemn warning of the seriousness of sin and the certainty of God’s judgment.
We saw last week how God miraculously healed Naaman, the Commander of the Syrian Army, of leprosy. Naaman couldn’t buy his healing. He couldn’t earn or deserve it. Naaman didn’t have to perform any complicated ritual or accomplish some difficult task. Naaman just had to trust and obey. Elisha the prophet commanded him to go and bathe in the river Jordan seven times. Naaman trusted God and obeyed the prophet – and God healed him of his leprosy.
2 Kings 5 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.
Understandably, Naaman wants to express his gratitude to Elisha the man of God.
15 Please accept now a gift from your servant.”
16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
Here we have the first good example for us to follow:
Elisha served God for what He could GIVE, not what he could GET. Not for possessions or for financial reward. His motives for serving God were entirely pure. There’s a challenge for every Christian, and especially for anybody serving God in the church as a minister or in a position of leadership. Why are we serving God? For God’s glory? Or for less noble motives? Because there are some who serve God for their own glory. For the reputation it brings them in the church.
Psalm 37 says this.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart

It is as we delight ourselves in the Lord and not in the things of this world, that God purifies our hearts, so that the desires of our hearts become to please God and glorify Him, not simply to acquire wealth or possessions.
Elisha served God for what he could GIVE, not for what he could GET. There is a challenge for all of us in that beautiful prayer.
TEACH US GOOD LORD, to serve you as you deserve.
To give and not to count the cost.
To fight and not to heed the wounds.
To toil and not to seek for rest.
To labour and not to ask for any reward,
Except that of knowing that we do your will.
Elisha is not only the good example we find in this story. We also see
Remember how the miracle of his healing brought Naaman to a place of faith.
14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.
Naaman the Syrian, the foreigner, came to put His trust in the God of Israel. He wants to express his gratitude in tangible form.
15 Please accept now a gift from your servant.”
But Elisha refuses that offer. God does not need our gifts, our wealth or our possessions. But more than that expressing his gratitude, Naaman realised he couldn’t just go back to Syria and carry on as before. His life had to change.
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.
Naaman was determined that from that point onwards he would only offer sacrifices to the Living God, the God of Israel. That’s why he believed he needed some earth from Israel, so that he could stand on Israel’s soil and worship the Lord wherever He was. And more than that, Naaman realised that his job as commander of the Syrian Armies would create difficulties for him as he carried out his duties.
18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”
Naaman recognized the difficult situation he would face and looked for Elisha’s guidance and blessing in that.
19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.
Naaman did not only trust and obey for the one miracle of his healing. Naaman’s life was transformed and gives us a lovely example of trust and obedience and commitment for the months and years to come. How inspiring and refreshing it is to see the difference that gratitude and faith and obedience make in the life of a new believer.
But then, in stark contrast to the good examples of Elisha and of Naaman, we see that dreadful sin to avoid:
After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’ ”
23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.

Gehazi had everything going for him. He was Elisha’s servant, just as Elisha had been servant of Elijah. His name means “valley of vision.” Gehazi had been there when Elisha had performed his great miracles. Elisha involved Gehazi in his ministry – indeed Gehazi was Elisha’s confidant. Gehazi was his apprentice. Yet he turned his back on Elisha, and on his destiny as apprentice, all for personal gain. He didn’t care about becoming a man of God, only a man with wealth and property and possessions. You might have hoped that just being with Elisha, and seeing all those miracles, would have helped Gehazi rise above temptation. But greed is so powerful. Gehazi was even tempted to build his lies on Elisha’s reputation and exploit the miracle that God had just worked in Naaman’s life, pretending that the gifts would be for God’s work. Pretending to be representing God, Gehazi was just lying and cheating and stealing.
Elisha served God for what He could GIVE. Gehazi was serving God for what he could GET. He wasn’t serving God for God’s sake, for God’s glory. Gehazi was serving God as a means to an end. There are many people who have fallen into that same trap. Exploiting the blessing and power of God for personal gain, for riches or power or prestige instead of giving all the glory to God.
The history of the church is tarnished with examples of corruption and greed and power-seeking, through the centuries and even today, and not only in some of the churches of Africa but even in churches in Britain. We cannot sweep under the carpet the ways that some of the great American “tele-evangelists” have fallen to the temptations of greed and popularity and immorality – and some of them were Baptists. The second letter of Peter warns the church against false teachers who are motivated only by greed.
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.
We must be on our guard against the false gospel of “health, wealth and prosperity” which is around even in England. Christians do NOT worship God so that He will prosper our businesses or give us safe comfortable lives. That is not how it works!
Gehazi was motivated by one simple question – “what’s in it for me?” The attitude which says, “enough is never enough.” The businessman Donald Trump once said, “You can’t be too greedy.” I saw a satirical cartoon of a Christian worship leader introducing a song with these words.
“I’d like to share a song with you which the Lord gave me a year ago. And even though He did give it to me, any reproduction of this song in any form without my written consent will constitute infringement of copyright law and give me the right to sue your pants off!”
There is a very famous American church with a famous minister who has written a number of famous books. I was on the mailing list for that church to let me know what resources they were offering to the wider church. But one day they sent me an email telling me that in future if I wanted to receive details of sermons and drama scripts and ideas for services I would have to pay to subscribe to their mailing list. It was bad enough that I would always have had to pay to see their sermons and other resources. Now I would have to pay just to see the titles of the things I would then have to buy.
What’s in it for me? Somebody wrote a sermon on this passage which he entitled “Gehazi International Ministries” or GIMMI for short. It breaks my heart to say that Gehazi lives on in too many (inverted commas) “great” churches. So many compromise the gospel to gain earthly riches. So many compromise their worship, or invite the ways of the world into their churches and into their lives, just so they can get something out of it for themselves.
And there could still have been a happy ending to this story – if only Gehazi had repented. By divine revelation Elisha knew everything that was going on. So he gave Gehazi an opportunity to confess his sin.
25 Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha.
“Where have you been, Gehazi?” Elisha asked.
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you?
It is a sure sign when somebody lies to cover up their sin that they know what they have been doing was wrong. “I didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t even there.” This story could have ended so differently – if only Gehazi had confessed and repented. But He didn’t. Elisha confronted Gehazi with his sin and so he faced
26 … Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.
This may seem harsh. But it is realistic. It is a vivid warning that the bars which shut many people out of heaven are made of silver and gold. Jesus commands his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount,
Mathew 6 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Martin Luther said each person needs three conversions, a first conversion of the mind, a second conversion of the heart, and a third conversion of the wallet! We must all turn away from the false god of Money to serve the true and living God.
The day after multi-billionaire Paul Getty died two women on a bus were talking. One asked, “How much did he leave?” Her friend replied, “Everything.”
John Calvin said this. “There is no middle ground. Either this world must become worthless to us, or it will hold us bound by an intemperate love of it.”
Elisha had his priorities right.
26 … Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants?
The urgency of doing God’s work leaves no space for personal gain or ambition or reward. There’s no profit in being a prophet.” Gehazi’s attitude was, “What’s in it for me.” And that attitude will always bring down God’s judgment. Greed will always cut us off from God. Jesus said something which rich Christians always find hard to accept and to live by.
Luke 14 33 Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
What’s in it for me? Simply to labour and not to ask for any reward, any recognition, any compensation, except that of knowing that we are doing God’s will.

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