In 2 Kings 5 we read an account of Elisha’s servant Gehazi going behind his master’s back to get payment for a miracle that God had performed. God had just healed an army commander named Naaman from a skin disease using Elisha to deliver His instructions. The officer was so grateful that he tried to pay the prophet for his services, but Elisha adamantly refused. When the officer finally went on his way, the greedy Gehazi went after him and made up a story so that he could collect on Naaman’s gratitude while the window of opportunity was still open. After stashing the goods, Gehazi returned to his master who immediately asked where he’d gone. Lying again, Gehazi pretended to be innocent but God had already exposed his deeds to Elisha. Once again the prophet acted as God’s mouthpiece, this time to curse Gehazi and all of his future descendants with the same skin disease that Naaman had been cured of.
“Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:27).
It’s easy to read this account and come away feeling like God was unreasonably harsh towards Gehazi. Naaman was bucks up and volunteered to share his wealth. Elisha was no doubt living on meager basics and could have really used an infusion of fresh supplies. What’s wrong with a little transfer of wealth to a loyal servant of God? It’s easy for us to identify with Gehazi, who saw a chance to make life a lot easier for himself and his master and reached for it. Perhaps he thought Elisha would come to his senses later and reward his servant for his better judgment. Boy was he in for a rude surprise.
Being a channel of God’s miraculous power is no small assignment. When God selects us out for such a privilege, we must be doubly guarded against taking any iota of glory for the things He does through us. Elisha rightly refused to accept payment for something that God alone deserved the credit for. By sneaking behind his back and taking the goods anyway, Gehazi undid Elisha’s attempt to keep Naaman’s gratitude directed only at God. While the commander was all too happy to express his thanks in a material way, God was royally offended by Gehazi’s actions. By trying to collect payment he hadn’t earned, the servant not only violated God’s glory but he also rejected God’s care of him and his master as insufficient. Doubly insulted, God taught Gehazi a lesson he wouldn’t forget.
Our Lord is extremely jealous in nature and He is highly sensitive about receiving full credit for the things He does. Nothing makes Him madder than when His people try to steal His glory for themselves. Elisha understood this, but today we are all too eager to take the bows for the things God does through us. If God inspires us to write some bit of His wisdom down in a book, are we right to go and sell it for a profit? If He gives us the talent and inspiration to write songs which glorify His Name, do we have any grounds for charging those who wish to play “our” songs in public? If He heals a body using our hands, does that authorize us to go boasting about it or signing autographs or charging people to come and hear us speak? For most of us, it never crosses our minds that God might be royally offended by us acting like Gehazi—using His work to line our own pockets and stealing a portion of praise that rightfully belongs to Him. If we do not recognize that all of our talents and insights come from God, we are blind fools. If we do recognize it and then proceed to take credit for the things He does through us, we are worse than fools—we are evil-hearted rebels who deserve a harsh beating. Tossing out some half-hearted “glory to God” hardly absolves our guilt for stealing His spotlight. God sees us constantly scheming for new ways to use His power, His talent, His wisdom, and His glory for our own selfish gain. He sees us printing out the glossy photographs of our own faces, He sees us selling shows of His power and announcing His next appearance as if we control His personal calendar. We would be wise to remember how God cursed Gehazi in a way that he could not hide from public scrutiny. Are we not asking for similar treatment by the way we are grabbing up God’s glory today?
God wants dependency from us. He is thoroughly insulted when we openly declare our distrust of Him, as the Israelites did by trying to hoard an extra ration of manna in their tents. God turned their symbol of distrust into disgusting maggots. When Gehazi tried to hoard wealth after witnessing God’s miraculous provision of him and his master time and again, God didn’t curse the wealth, He cursed the one who hoarded it. When we become closely associated with God’s power, the punishment for disobeying Him becomes far more severe. Yet today we don’t even hesitate to rake in the wealth from those who are grateful for “our” ministry efforts. While we preach and teach about the importance of trusting God, we trust only ourselves by carefully stashing away the profits we receive. Instead of listening to the Holy Spirit, we pay carnal people to educate us on how to properly pet the egos of our followers so that they will continue to make donations to us. We pump out form letters dripping with syrup to tell our givers how marvelous they are to support our wonderful selves, and then we praise ourselves for being so clever when our ministry continues to thrive. The day Gehazi chased after Naaman, he came home with an armload of wealth. But although he tried to hide it from sight, God saw what he was doing and turned his greedy joy into permanent misery. Are we not begging for the same punishment when we exalt God with our lips yet declare with our lives that He cannot really be trusted?
Is there some area of your life in which you are acting like Gehazi? Are you trying to use God’s gifts to your advantage or are you taking a share of His glory? Are you claiming to rely on Him while you are really relying on yourself? God knows all of our secrets, there is nothing we can hide from Him. If we no longer regard serving Him as a humbling honor, then we are in a dangerous place. Don’t wait for the day God’s patience with your rebellion runs out. Obey the convictions of His Spirit and repent of any Gehazi-like behaviors. We must serve with the humility of Elisha and Jesus, refusing to take the glory for the things our Father does and relying on Him alone to provide for us. God may well decide to bless you materially as you honor Him with your life. But unless He specifically authorizes you to accept some form of payment for something He did through you, you would be wise to follow Elisha’s example and adamantly refuse.
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. (2 Kings 5:16)