15Naaman and his officials went back to Elisha. Naaman stood in front of him and announced, “Now I know that the God of Israel is the only God in the whole world. Sir, would you please accept a gift from me?”
16“I am a servant of the living Lord,” Elisha answered, “and I swear that I will not take anything from you.”
Naaman kept begging, but Elisha kept refusing. 17Finally Naaman said, “If you won't accept a gift, then please let me take home as much soil as two mules can pull in a wagon. Sir, from now on I will offer sacrifices only to the Lord. 18But I pray that the Lord will forgive me when I go into the temple of the god Rimmon and bow down there with the king of Syria.”
19“Go on home, and don't worry about that,” Elisha replied. Then Naaman left.
Elisha Places a Curse
After Naaman had gone only a short distance, 20Gehazi said to himself, “Elisha let that Syrian off too easy. He should have taken Naaman's gift. I swear by the living Lord that I will talk to Naaman myself and get something from him.” 21So he hurried after Naaman.
When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he got out of his chariot to meet him. Naaman asked, “Is everything all right?”
22“Yes,” Gehazi answered. “But my master has sent me to tell you about two young prophets from the hills of Ephraim. They came asking for help, and now Elisha wants to know if you would give them 3,000 pieces of silver and some new clothes?”
23“Sure,” Naaman replied. “But why don't you take twice that amount of silver?” He convinced Gehazi to take it all, then put the silver in two bags. He handed the bags and the clothes to his two servants, and they carried them for Gehazi.
24When they reached the hill where Gehazi lived, he took the bags from the servants and placed them in his house, then sent the men away. After they had gone, 25Gehazi went in and stood in front of Elisha, who asked, “Gehazi, where have you been?”
“Nowhere, sir,” Gehazi answered.
26Elisha asked, “Don't you know that my spirit was there when Naaman got out of his chariot to talk with you? Gehazi, you have no right to accept money or clothes, olive orchards or vineyards, sheep or cattle, or servants. 27Because of what you've done, Naaman's leprosy will now be on you and your descendants forever!”
Suddenly, Gehazi's skin became white with leprosy, and he left.
A few years ago a list contrasted CEO compensation for non-profits versus for-profit companies. When asked about the difference, the CEO of one non-profit ministry replied, “You couldn’t pay me enough to do this job!” Some aspects of ministry spring from calling and compulsion, and can’t be quantified into dollars.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul outlines his ministry philosophy. First, ministry is “something God told me to do, and if I don’t do it, I am doomed” (v 16). Paul argues in general terms for the right of “everyone who preaches the good news to make a living from preaching this message” (v 14). Nonetheless he chooses to deny himself those rights, concluding that those in ministry should not take payment from the recipients of their ministry.
Perhaps Elisha refuses the gift from Naaman for related reasons. Consider the stakes: a high-profile case observed by kings of two nations that could potentially end a war. Elisha must cross battle lines, cultural differences and personal boundaries to love his enemies, laying aside his own feelings. He’s not doing it for money. Elisha keeps his eyes on the mission: his enemy needs to experience undeserved healing and grace.
Meanwhile, Gehazi seeks to make “that Syrian” pay. In monetizing the miracle, Gehazi risks Elisha’s ministry. He exposes Elisha’s reputation by using his name as part of the cover story. Does Gehazi consider what Naaman might conclude at this change of mind from a prophet with such confidence in the Lord? And what if Naaman were to discover the lie?
More importantly, Gehazi sets himself against God. He interjects himself into this story of God’s grace, in effect stealing the glory from God and robbing Naaman of that grace. As Elisha condemns Gehazi and his descendants to live as outcasts, he states an important principle: It’s not about our rights; grace should be free.
Father of all nations, you desire everyone to be saved. Keep our motives pure as we serve your purposes so that we don’t become the obstacle to your message of grace for all peoples. Through Jesus Christ who laid aside his rights and freely gave himself for us. Amen.