True Colors

2 Kings 5:15-27
15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.”
16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.
18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, 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.” But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance,
20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “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.”
21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?”
22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’ ”
23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi.
24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.
25 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 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants 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, like snow.

Throughout the story of Elisha, Gehazi has been consistently at his side. Now, in the conclusion of Naaman’s story, we discover Gehazi’s true character. Elisha has proven to Naaman that God’s love is not for sale and His grace does not require payment. Naaman is a changed man. The once proud and demanding commander is now humble, grateful, and generous. (See verses 21, 23) Naaman displays his new belief in the Living God by asking for as much Israelite soil as two mules could carry. It was a common belief that the “gods” inhabited specific portions of land. Naaman’s faith is new and he cannot be blamed for making this assumption about Yahweh. Elisha grants him this favor as it would most likely help Naaman remember that he belongs to the Living God now. Naaman would put some of that soil in the temple of his master and when it came time to bow down before the pagan god, Naaman would be actually offering his worship to Yahweh. Being lenient with new believers is not a bad thing.

Then we come to the shameful behavior of Gehazi as his true character is displayed. While Elisha denies Naaman’s gifts, Gehazi chases him down and makes up a story that will cause him to receive some of the wealth Naaman had to offer. Gehazi then hides what he has deceitfully taken and heads back to his master’s side, where he has the temerity to lie to Elisha and tell him that he didn’t go anywhere! What you don’t want to do is lie to the Spirit of the Lord! As a result of his greed and his deception, Gehazi receives the leprosy from which Naaman was cleansed! Instantaneously!

God always knows what’s in our hearts – always. Gehazi was never hiding out from God and even Elisha probably knew who he was dealing with, while giving him the benefit of the doubt. While the text is silent about the remains of Gehazi’s life and the quality of his faith, we do know that he was now separated from Elisha. Was Elisha hurt by Gehazi’s betrayal? The text is silent about that too, but there had to have been some pain involved in seeing someone to whom you were close suffer the consequences of their choices. Two things are clear from this story. One, we are not privy to the quality of a person’s soul, but their actions may give us clues. And two, we do have the right to separate ourselves from those who would lie to us and live outside of what God wants for us. This can be done without judgment (although that is very difficult) and there does not have to be bitterness involved (also difficult!)