Introduction: 2 Kings 5 is best known for Elisha’s miracle that healed a Syrian general named Naaman in the River Jordan from his leprosy. But this account involves far more than one miracle. It also involves three other individuals. These include a faithful captured Jewish woman, the faithlessness of a Jewish king named Jehoram, and the covetousness and lies of Elisha’s servant named Gehazi. From the errors and successes of these individuals, God reveals seven things that He expects from you in your walk. These include: (1) service, (2) faith, (3) humility, (4) obedience, (5) thanksgiving, (6) righteousness, and (7) repentance when you sin.
First, God allowed a young Jewish woman to be taken as a slave by the Syrian general Naaman. While most would complain under these circumstances, the woman cared for her pagan master, and she even recommended that he visit Yahweh’s prophet to cure his leprosy. Like the slave girl, God expects you to faithfully serve Him wherever you are located. Second, the Syrian king then offered Jehoram money to heal Naaman. Jehoram panicked and presumed this would lead to a war because his false prophets could not perform miracles. He also had no relationship with God or His prophet Elisha. Unlike Jehoram, God expects you to put your faith in Him and have a relationship with Him. Third, Naaman initially left Elisha’s residence filled with anger because Elisha did not meet with him in person or perform a grand ceremony to cure him. He was also angry at Elisha’s direction that he wash himself in the River Jordan when larger rivers exist in Syria. While Naaman was prideful, God expects you to walk with humility before Him. Fourth, after Naaman submitted in faith-led obedience, God miraculously cured his leprosy. God also expects you to walk in faith-led obedience. Fifth, Naaman responded with praise and humility before God after being restored. God also expects your gratitude for His blessings in your life. Sixth, after Elisha turned down Naaman’s offer of a gift, Gehazi ran after Naaman and lied in order to collect part of the gift. Unlike Gehazi, God expects you to walk in righteousness and integrity. Finally, God gave Elisha the ability to see Gehazi’s sins. Elisha then confronted Gehazi to give him the chance to repent. Gehazi responded with more lies. God then judged him by giving him Naaman’s leprosy. Unlike Gehazi, God expects you to repent when you sin.
God granted the Syrian captain Naaman victory, but also allowed him to contract leprosy. This account begins with the revelation that God built up a pagan general in Syria with a great reputation in battle. Yet, God then allowed this same man to contract leprosy: “1 Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.” (2 Kgs. 5:1). The name “Naaman” means pleasantness. He was called a “captain”. Yet, he would be called a general in the modern world. The same term is used to refer to a country’s highest ranking military officer (Gen. 21:22; 1 Sam. 12:9; 1 Chron. 27:34). He most likely served under Ben-hadad II (1 Kgs. 15:18). He was highly respected for his skill on the battlefield. The titles used for him were similar to the titles of valor and honor given to Gideon (Jdgs. 6:12), Jephthah (Jdgs. 11:1), and David (1 Sam. 16:18). During the reigns of Ahab and Jehoshaphat, the Syrians fought the combined armies of Northern Israel and Judah (1 Kgs. 22:35-36). Because God is sovereign (Is. 10:13; Amos 9:7), “the Lord had given victory to Aram.” (2 Kgs. 5:1). By some Jewish legends, Naaman was the one who killed Ahab in battle. God used his Syrian army to judge Ahab “37 So the king died . . . and the dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken.” (1 Kgs. 22:37-38). But God then gave Naaman leprosy (Lev. 13:1-46). It was a highly infectious disease (Lk. 4:27). It would have started off small. Yet, it would slowly result in his limbs rotting and ultimately in his death.
Naaman’s leprosy symbolized his sin. Leprosy is a symbol of both sin and God’s punishment of sin. For example, God infected Miriam with leprosy as a punishment for her sin when she rebelled against Moses’ leadership (Nu. 12:10). As another example, God infected King Uzziah with leprosy when he tried to take on the dual roles of King and High Priest, roles which God had separated (2 Ch. 26:19-21). Naaman was under God’s judgment because God lifted him up, and Naaman took credit for this out of pride. As people fled from him, all his prideful honor would turn into social rejection.
Leprosy and sin cause the victim to lose feeling. Leprosy kills the nerve endings in the infected skin. Appendages fall off because the victim cannot feel when he or she is causing damage to a finger or toe. Sin also causes the victim to become numb to the pain he or she is causing: “being darkened in their understanding . . . they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (Eph. 4:18-19). “by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” (1 Tim. 4:2). Feeling pain is important. For example, pain receptors keep your body from making an injury worse. Your pain receptors tell your hand to remove it from a hot stove before it gets burned. Like leprosy, unchecked sin can dampen the ability of the Holy Spirit to convict you of your sin. Naaman could not hear God’s call to repentance because he was numb to his sins.
God used a captured woman of faith as the instrument for His message. As part of the Syrian’s victory over the Jews, God allowed a woman of faith to become Naaman’s servant. God did this to fulfill His greater plans for Naaman: “2 Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, ‘I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.’ 4 Naaman went in and told his master, saying, ‘Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.’” (2 Kgs. 5:2-4). Naaman captured this young woman during one of many raids during ongoing border skirmishes between Northern Israel and Syria. Naaman committed an act of evil by enslaving one of God’s people. Yet, God used this evil act to teach this proud general humility. The young woman had compassion for her evil master. She also had a faith that was rare in the apostate state of Northern Israel. Instead of complaining about her situation, she proclaimed in faith that God’s prophet could heal her pagan master. If Naaman wanted to be healed, he would need to reject Baal, humble himself, and obey Yahweh.
The faith of a captured servant girl led to one of the great healing miracles in the Bible1
Serve God wherever He places you and whatever your circumstance. A typical person in the young girl’s shoes would have been filled with bitterness. Under similar circumstances, a typical person would either blame God or see this as proof that God does not exist. The young slave girl could not imagine that her simple act of faith-led service would precede one of the great miracles of the Old Testament. Nor could she imagine that she would set in motion a chain of events that would turn one of the most powerful men in Syria into a follower of Yahweh. Yet, that is just what she did. The message is that you must serve God faithfully, even if other people have placed you in a lowly place. “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Eph. 6:5-6). “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” (Col. 3:22). Jesus also served others like the young slave. Although Jesus was God, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7). As an example to all believers, He came to serve and not to be served (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). He did not even have a home or a bed to sleep in (Matt. 8:20; 2 Cor. 8:9). “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mi. 6:8). If you have been placed in a difficult environment, are you serving others and God? Or, are you simply complaining about your situation?
The kings of Syria and Northern Israel fail to turn to Yahweh for help. Because the prophets of Baal in Syria were powerless to help Naaman, Ben-hadad II offered money to Jehoram to heal his top general. But Jehoram feared a new war because he had no means to help. He also had no relationship with either Yahweh or His prophet Elisha: “5 Then the king of Aram said, ‘Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, ‘And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.’ 8 It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”’ (2 Kgs. 5:5-8). Because both countries constantly fought wars against each other, neither trusted each other. A misstep between the two countries could have resulted in a new war. But Ben-hadad II was desperate to have his top general restored. Thus, he offered Jehoram ten talents of silver and six thousand pieces of gold to heal Naaman. This translated to approximately 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold. In this account, neither Ben-hadad II nor Jehoram demonstrated any understanding of Yahweh. Ben-hadad II assumed that any Jewish prophet had to be an instrument of the Jewish government. Jehoram also assumed that one of his counterfeit priests was expected to perform a miracle. Because his false priests had never performed a miracle, he knew that they could not heal Naaman for any amount of money. Thus, Jehoram assumed that a failed healing would be the pretext for a new war. He therefore ripped his clothes as a sign of distress (2 Kgs. 5:7; 1 Kgs. 21:27). In his moment of desperation, Elisha reached out to Jehoram and advised him that a real prophet existed in Israel. The kings of both Northern Israel and Syria would soon learn that Yahweh had the power to perform miracles. Jehoram may have heard of Elisha’s miracles. Yet, he must have dismissed them the way most dismiss miracles today. He must have assumed that these were mere exaggerations or the false propaganda of Yahweh’s followers. Jerhoram showed no appreciation. He was simply relieved that this was no longer his problem. As one commentator observes: “Elisha gave a gentle rebuke to the king of Israel. ‘This is a crisis to you, because you have no relationship with the God who can heal lepers. But it is a needless crisis, because you could have a relationship with this God.’” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 5).2
King Ben-hadad II sends a letter to King Jehoram asking for help for Naaman3
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Jehoram did not feel peace because he had no faith in Yahweh. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Like Jehoram, many trust in either their own power or in powerful people in times of crisis. Yet, God wants you to put your trust in Him alone: “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” (Ps. 118:8). Do you trust in God or in powerful people?
All things are possible with God when you have faith and rely upon His strength. Jehoram feared because the healing request was an impossible request. Yet, if He knew God, he would know that God can do all things: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14(a)). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27). “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). “‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26(b); Mk. 10:27(b); Lk. 1:37). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). When all seems lost or when you face the impossible, do you give your burdens to God?
Out of pride, Naaman rejects Elisha’s offer to cure him. As a non-believer, God gave Naaman an incredible opportunity to be healed. Yet, out of pride, he walked away in rage at Elisha’s failure to treat him with greater respect. He wanted a dramatic miracle: “9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.’ 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.” (2 Kgs. 5:9-12). Naaman agreed to come to Elisha. Yet, he came with prideful pomp with his horses and his chariot. Elisha, however, did not pay him the respect of meeting with him in person. Instead, he sent Gehazi to tell Naaman to wash himself in the Jordan River without pomp or circumstance seven times.
Out of pride, Naaman initially rejected Elisha’s direct to go to the Jordan River4
Naaman’s cure required humility before God. Naaman was furious because he expected a dramatic and public ceremony in his honor to heal his leprosy. He was a well-known military general. He came with money, and Ben-hadad II personally wrote a letter to Jehoram to announce his arrival. Thus, Elisha insulted his pride by refusing to meet with him. He was equally offended that he had to go to the Jordan river when the Abanah and the Pharpar rivers near Damascus were larger (2 Kgs. 5:12). His pride almost caused him to pass up his chance to be healed. “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” (Prov. 14:17). Naaman’s physical problems were a manifestation of his spiritual problem. He needed to submit to God in faith and obedience before God would restore him (Lk. 5:12-13). Even if the Abanah and the Pharpar rivers were bigger than the Jordan river, it was God alone who could heal him.
Walk humbly and use God’s gifts for Him so that He can exalt you. Like Naaman, God wants to exalt you. Yet, you must also walk in humble service to God and not the needs of your own flesh: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’ (Jam. 4:6(b)). Do you walk with humility by serving God and His people? If so, He will exalt you either on Earth or in heaven.
God has the power to cleanse you of any infirmity. Elisha directed Gehazi to have Naaman dunk himself in holy water seven times because this was God’s prescribed method for healing a leper: “He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field.” (Lev. 14:7). “Then the clean person shall sprinkle on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him from uncleanness, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and shall be clean by evening.” (Nu. 19:19). “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” (Ezek. 36:25). The cleansing waters of the Jordan River foreshadowed Jesus, who can cleanse you of all infirmities: “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb. 10:22). There was only one healed leper during all of Elisha’s ministry: “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Lk. 4:27). In contrast, Jesus healed many lepers. He is so powerful that He can heal a leper merely with His touch or His command: “Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matt. 8:3). By His stripes you can also be healed (Is. 53:5). Do you turn to Jesus for your medical needs?
Naaman submits in faith-led obedience and experiences God’s healing. An unidentified servant stopped Naaman in his rage and pointed out that his refusal to perform Elisha’s simple directions were foolish when he previously professed a willingness to make a great sacrifice. Once Naaman obeyed and followed Elisha’s directions, God healed him: “13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, ‘My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?’ 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” (2 Kgs. 5:13-14). Naaman’s journey began after he listened to a humble servant. His journey ended when listened to a second humble servant. These servants confirmed the importance of humble obedience. Even though the Abanah and the Pharpar rivers may have been mightier rivers, it was God’s power and not the water itself that would heal Naaman. Once Naaman learned to submit and obey God’s Word, God restored him. Moreover, God went beyond simply removing his leprosy. Instead, He gave him the youthful skin of a young man.
Naaman submits in faith-led obedience to God’s directions5
God does not heal or restore based upon your works. Naaman was also disappointed because he was ready to perform a great sacrifice (2 Kgs. 5:13). He was ready to earn his restoration through a great and heroic sacrifice. Dunking himself in a muddy river left no room for him to boast that he had in some manner contributed to his healing.
Be obedient to God’s Word. Today, Christians are no longer “under the law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3; Matt. 5:17). Yet, Jesus also says that, if we love Him, we will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Jesus is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Horeb (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the law out of love is also a test for whether you really know Him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3; 1 Cor. 7:19). Is there any area in your life where you are being disobedient to Jesus?
Naaman professes Yahweh as the one true God and offers gifts in gratitude. In response to God’s grace, Naaman acknowledged in humility that Yahweh was the one true God. Out of deep felt thanksgiving, he offered gifts to both Elijah and his servant: “15 When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, ‘Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.’ 16 But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.’ And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Naaman said, ‘If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.’ 19 He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he departed from him some distance.” (2 Kgs. 5:15-19). Naaman’s physical transformation mirrored the transformation on the inside. He once worshiped pagan gods. He now worshiped Yahweh (2 Kgs. 5:15). He previously wanted to pay for a healing (2 Kgs. 5:5). Now, he wanted to give a gift out of thanksgiving (2 Kgs. 5:15). He previously was filled with pride and rage because Elisha did not do what he wanted (2 Kgs. 5:11-12). Now, he bowed in humility, and he asked Elisha that God pardon him. He further called himself Elisha’s servant (2 Kgs. 5:18). He previously disparaged the River Jordan (2 Kgs. 5:12). Now, he wanted to take soil back from the Promised Land to Damascus to build an altar to worship Yahweh there (2 Kgs. 5:17). Elisha rejected any type of gift because he did not want to profit off of God’s miracles. He also did not want to tarnish God’s holy image to the gentiles in Syria.
Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680) “Elisha refusing the gifts of Nanaam (oil painting 1661)6
Give thanks to Jesus for your undeserved transformation. This account foreshadowed Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers. Only one of the 10 lepers (also a foreigner) came back to thank Jesus. The Jewish lepers took Jesus’ healing for granted. Yet the foreigner came back to thank Jesus because he saw that he did not deserve to be healed. “15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?”’ (Lk. 17:15-17). The Samaritan saw himself as a sinner who needed Jesus’ mercy and grace. Like the Samaritan, do you remember to stop and thank Jesus for all His acts of mercy and grace in your life?
Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Naaman’s conversion included a public declaration of faith in Yahweh. By his faith, God healed him: “And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”’ (Mk. 5:34). His public confession was similar to those of Rahab “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Josh. 2:11) and Ruth: “But Ruth said, ‘ . . . Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”’ (Ruth 1:16). Moses also made a similar declaration: “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” (Dt. 4:39). The Jews had also seen God perform many miracles. Yet, his faith exceeded the Jews’ faith because most had succumbed to Baal worship.
Gehazi’s greed and lies. After Elisha turned down Naaman’s offers of gifts for both himself and his servant Gehazi, Gehazi became filled with greed. Thus, Gehazi pursued after Naaman after he made up a lie to receive his gift: “20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, ‘Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.’ 21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him and said, ‘Is all well?’ 22 He said, ‘All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.’’ 23 Naaman said, ‘Be pleased to take two talents.’ And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him. 24 When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.” (2 Kgs. 5:20-24). Gehazi and Naaman provided stark contrasts in their walks with God. Gehazi outwardly looked like a righteous man. He served Elisha and lived in poverty. Yet, inwardly, he was filled with covetousness. Naaman’s offer of riches proved too tempting for him to turn down. He justified his greed by speaking with contempt that a foreigner received a healing without paying any money. Thus, he ran to fill his greedy heart. Even worse, he lied about God and made up a story about alleged prophets in need. He requested two talents of silver, together weighing approximately 150 pounds. In contrast, Naaman had a transformed heart. He got off of his chariot to meet Elisha’s servant as an equal. He assumed that Gehazi spoke on behalf of both Elisha and God, just as he did previously. Thus, Naaman gave without question. He also freely gave two of his servants to help carry the tremendous loot of silver. Knowing that he had done an evil thing, Gehazi had the servants hide the silver in his house. As a gentile, Naaman showed himself more righteous than God’s representative. Gehazi defamed God with his lies and his greed.
As God’s ambassador, walk with righteousness and integrity. Like Gehazi, you are God’s ambassador (2 Cor. 5:22). You also represent God’s light (Matt. 5:14). Thus, as an example to others, you are called upon to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). God also calls upon you to be blameless and righteous: “so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:11). Do your actions reflect fairly upon Jesus’ righteousness?
Gehazi violated God’s Tenth Commandment against coveting. By longing for something that did not belong to him, Gehazi violated God’s Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:17; 5:21). Paul is clear that this Commandment still applies to believers. It is included in Jesus’ command that you love your neighbor as yourself: “For this, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (Ro. 13:9). If you long for things that do not belong to you, you also have violated God’s Tenth Commandment.
Gehazi also violated God’s Second Commandment against idolatry. Because money was what Gehazi longed for, it was also his idol. Paul defines greed as a form of idolatry: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;” (Eph. 5:3). Thus, if you give into covetousness, whatever you covet is your idol.
Gehazi also violated God’s Third Commandment with his lies and his theft. Gehazi’s actions were particularly offensive to God because it cast a shadow over God and Elisha. To a critic, Elisha’s ministry would appear no better than the false prophet who tried to fleece God’s people for money. Moreover, by falsely swearing in God’s name, Gehazi took the Lord’s name in vain and violated the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Ex. 20:7; 5:11). ‘“You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.”’ (Lev. 19:12). By stealing gifts offered to God, he also profaned God’s holy name: ‘That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:9). Does your conduct honor God?
Guard yourself against greed and covetousness, which can defile you before God. Jesus warned believers to stay vigilant to guard their hearts against greed and any form of covetousness: “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”’ (Lk. 12:15). Coveting, like the other Ten Commandments, is a sin of the heart that defiles you: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). Thus, if you covet and refuse to repent, you are defiling yourself before God.
Gehazi’s lies to Elisha to cover up his sins and receives God’s judgment. When Gehazi returned, Elisha first tested his heart to see if he would confess his sins. When Gehazi lied to cover up his sins, God judged him through Elisha by infecting him with Naaman’s leprosy: “25 But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, ‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’ And he said, ‘Your servant went nowhere.’ 26 Then he said to him, ‘Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? 27 Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.’ So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” (2 Kgs. 5:25-27). Elisha tested Gehazi by asking him where he had been (2 Kgs. 5:25). This was similar to when God asked Adam “where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). In both cases, God knew where the person was physically. Yet, in both cases, God either directly or indirectly through His prophet asked a rhetorical question to ask where the person was spiritually. In both cases, the questions were meant to give the sinner a chance to repent. In both cases, the sinners exhibited stupidity to think that their sins could be hidden from God or His representative. In both cases, the sinners were spiritually blind to their sins. In both cases, God was forced to judge the sinners.
God used Elisha to judge Gehazi by giving him leprosy7
Coveting can turn your heart away from God. Solomon was the wisest man alive (1 Kgs. 4:30). Yet, he coveted first wealth and then women. His coveting led him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11:3). His lusts and his pagan wives then turned his heart away from God (1 Kgs. 11:4). He then began to serve other gods and did evil in God’s eyes (1 Kgs. 11:5-6). Do the lusts of the flesh rule over you?
Ananias and Sapphira’s coveting caused them to steal and then lie about it. Like Gehazi, Ananias and Sapphira provide another example of how coveting can lead to theft against God (Mal. 3:8-10). The coveting of money overcame both Ananias and Sapphira by causing them to withhold tithes from their church (Acts 5:1-3). Their coveting not only caused them to break the Eighth Commandment against theft, their coveting also caused them to break the Ninth Commandment against lying. God then struck them both dead as an example for the Church (Acts 5:4-10). If you seek God first, you have no reason to worry about money or anything else. He will provide for you (Matt. 6:33). Does your love of your money make it hard for you to give back a part of God’s money?
Coveting leads to the temptation to use lies and deceit. Like Gehazi, if you covet a life filled with wealth, you may face many types of temptations to lie or use deceit. This can include holding back on your tithes, underreporting your taxable income and stealing from employers, clients, or others. If you give into covetousness, you will also face other similar temptations. You may also face temptations to gamble or argue with your spouse. Studies show that the most common thing to happen to couples after winning the lottery is to get a divorce. If anyone loves these “things of the world,” “the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Is your heart filled with a love of money?
No sin can be hidden from God. God gave Elisha prophetic sight of Gehazi’s evil acts (2 Kgs. 5:26). He knew that Gehazi felt entitled to profit off of his ministry for God. He even knew that Gehazi planned to buy a vineyard, animals, and servants with his stolen money (2 Kgs. 5:26). No sin can be hidden from God (Job 11:11; Ps. 139:1-4).
Gehazi received the fruit of his labors. As his judgment, Gehazi received the same leprosy that previously infected Naaman. In an instant, his skin was white from full blown leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:27). He had gone out to receive something from Naaman (2 Kgs. 5:20). He returned and received Naaman’s leprosy as the fruit of his labors. Now, the evil inside of Gehazi was visible for all to see. If he ever got married as a leper, he would also doom any future children to being lepers as well. Finally, he would no longer have the privilege and honor of serving Elisha and witnessing God’s many miracles.
The love of money leads to many types of grief and sadness. Gehazi faced the sadness of living a life as a leper. This included lonely isolation. Although money is not inherently evil, the love of money is an evil that leads to many kinds of grief (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Even if you have eternal salvation through Christ, God promises “curses” or earthly discipline in the form of hardships for those who reject His Covenant and choose to submit to Satan’s covetousness (Lev. 26:14-37; Dt. 27:15-26; 28:15-68). This can include addictions (Ro. 1:24-33). God disciplines you when you are willingly wayward in your walk because He loves you and wants to guide you back with His rod (Heb. 12:6). Are you using His grace as a license to covet more? (Rom. 6:15).
God promises to punish unrepentant covetousness. God is slow to anger and wants no one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, He is a consuming fire of righteousness (Heb. 12:28-29). In Proverbs, Solomon warned from personal experience that God will ultimately punish those who give into covetousness and then refuse to repent of it: “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20). Like the other Commandments, the penalty for coveting is death (Jam. 1:14-15; Heb. 10:28). A coveter who has not repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior is not only cursed to struggle and lead a life of desperation, that person is also disqualified from entering heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:5; see also Rev. 2:14, 20).
Repent when God exposes your sins. Unlike Gehazi, God calls upon you to repent when He exposes your sins. When you repent, He is faithful to forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9).