The Syrian commander Naaman had just been cleansed of his leprosy. Having brought with him plenty of gold, silver, and fine clothing, he begged the prophet to accept his gifts. But Elisha answered, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none” (2 Kings 5:16). Naaman continued to urge Elisha to accept the gifts, only for Elisha to continually decline. Elisha, a godly man in whom there was no greed, recognized that God’s gifts were not for sale.
But as Naaman prepared to depart for Syria, Gehazi—Elisha’s servant—approached the commander. He spun a story about two travelers who had just arrived from Ephraim. The text describes his intentions: “see, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him” (2 Kings 5:20). Having stashed away his loot, Gehazi rejoined Elisha, who knew what he has done. Elisha asks, “was it time to accept money and garments…therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants for ever” (2 Kings 5:26-27). While Elisha recognized that God’s gifts were not for sale, the greedy Gehazi saw an opportunity to extract a few dollars from the recipient of the gift.
Gehazi’s story is not unique in scripture. There is a long record of severe punishments and denouncements on those who are greedy with God’s things. Eli’s two wicked sons would interrupt worshippers’ sacrifices so they could take the best of the meat for themselves (1 Sam 2:15-17). They were the first to be eliminated from Eli’s doomed household. Ananias and Sapphira made a generous contribution by donating the proceeds from the sale of some land. Only they kept back part of the money and deceived their brethren. Their punishment was quick and severe (Acts 5:1-11). Simon the sorcerer attempted to buy miraculous gifts from the apostles. Peter answered him, “may your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:20).
Strong consequences follow when people are greedy with God’s things. One might argue, “what was Gehazi’s great sin? Naaman offered the money and willingly gave it!” But Elisha answered that it was not time to receive money. To receive money would turn God’s gifts into a moneymaking scheme. Strong consequences must follow when God’s things are prostituted. Think of the harm it does to God’s cause. Think of the undermining of the work of genuine servants. Think of the rampant abuse that would follow. The Gospel is not for sale. Salvation is not a bargaining chip. The slogans of capitalism are “greed is good! Monetize! Get rich quick!” These slogans have no place among God’s things.