The man of God's awkward smile betrayed his surprise. The Syrian had returned and all his aides with him. It was the first time Elisha had seen him in person, but he looked different than how the messenger whom he had sent out to meet him had described. No, Elisha had not put on his best garments, nor did he wait for Naaman hat in hand because he thought he could further his ministry, in fact he did nothing the Syrian expected him to do, that he may enter his good graces.
Elisha knew what a leper, one stricken with he merciless disease of leprosy ought to look like, and the man standing before him was no leper. He was clean, in fact his skin was flawless, like that of a child.
Although the Syrian spoke the right words, his actions betrayed his ignorance. If he now knew that there was no God in all the earth except in Israel, why then was Naaman offering a gift to him?
Elisha knew who had healed Naaman, he had only relayed a message, and not even in person, to a desperate man willing to travel to the land of his enemies, on the word of a little servant girl.
Here he now stood, healed of his leprosy, attempting to show his gratitude not to the God who healed him, but to the messenger. Yes, Elisha knew what he was, he knew he was a prophet, called of God, it is why he sent word to the King to have the Syrian sent to him, that he may know, there was a prophet in Israel. By the same token, Elisha also knew that a prophet is merely a vessel, made valuable only by that which is poured into it.
How could he receive gifts from this Syrian, well intentioned as he might have been?
No, he could not minimize God's involvement by receiving anything for himself. Could he have used what the Syrian was offering? Perhaps. Was Elisha rich? Probably not, but integrity is blind to personal gain.
The awkward smile broke, the man of God finally found the words he was looking for, although his heart and mind had long been settled. He did not want to offend the Syrian again, it had already happened once that day, but he had to make himself understood, he had to be clear that there would be no debate on the matter.
"As the Lord lives, before whom I stand I will receive nothing," Elisha said with conviction.
It was not Naaman's first time before sages and mystics. He had long exhausted all other avenues before venturing into the land of Israel, and few of the others had graciously refused his gifts, even though the had not helped him, but when he insisted that he should give them something for their time, they gave in and took what he offered, some even shamelessly asking for more.
Surely this man was no different, he had done what none other could, he had healed him, surely he would not refuse just recompense. Maybe it's not enough, maybe he's looking for a monthly commitment, a faith promise, but Naaman insisted that Elisha take what he had brought, perhaps thinking that the could send more once he got home, but the man of God rebuffed him again.
The matter had been settled. He wasn't just being coy, he wasn't angling for more, he really would receive nothing.
Seeing that he could not persuade Elisha, Naaman asked if he could take some earth that he may bring sacrifice upon it to the one true God. Two mule loads of earth later, Naaman was ready to go, and Elisha said, 'go in peace!'
Within earshot of this entire exchange was a frustrated man. Gehazi had chewed his fingernails to bloody stumps trying to keep his emotions under control. He couldn't believe his ears. How could Elisha spare the Syrian, he was ripe for the picking. He'd been healed, that's got to be worth something. Elisha might be a prophet, and his master, but he sure didn't know how to run a business. He'd never taken the course on how to maximize your profits, or the one on the capitalist gospel, but Gehazi would fix all that. "As the Lord lives," Gehazi murmured, "I will run after him, and take something from him."
Gehazi was bright so he did the math in his head while he ran, and came to the conclusion that a real, honest to goodness miracle must be worth at least a talent of silver, and two changes of clothing. He's a Syrian, he's rich, and he just got healed of leprosy. That has to be worth some twenty-three thousand dollars (the equivalent of a talent of silver) Gehazi reckoned.
Out of breath and sweating profusely, Gehazi caught up with Naaman and his entourage, the lie already established in his mind.
It was a good lie, a believable lie, two young men of the sons of the Prophets had just arrived from the mountains of Ephraim, and wouldn't you know it, Elisha had changed his mind and now wanted a few things not for himself, but for the young men.
Gehazi knew that if he asked his request would have little weight, or power to convince, but if he came in the name of his master, as one who was sent by the man of God, and spoke as though relaying a message from him, Naaman would be more inclined to open his purse strings.
(Take a second to read between the lines, I will pick the apples, but I will not feed them to you.)
Naaman was grateful for what had just happened, looking down at the pink skin of hi newly healed hands, he couldn't help but give more than what was asked of him. He bound two talents of silver in two bags rather than one, and even sent two of his servants to carry Gehazi's ill gotten loot back to the citadel.
The plan had succeeded, or so Gehazi thought. He'd stashed the silver in the house, sent Naaman's servants back to their master, patted himself down, made himself look presentable, and went in to stand before his master.
Brokenhearted, the hurt of betrayal etched on his weathered face, Elisha asked, "where did you go Gehazi?"
In an instant a million thoughts raced through Gehazi's mind: "Does he smell the sweat? Am I flushed in the cheeks? Am I breathing heavy? He trusts me, he's getting on in years, I can lie myself out of this!"
"Your servant did not go anywhere", Gehazi answered averting his gaze.
Then Elisha spoke the words that fell like a hammer blow upon Gehazi's heart, crushing his dreams of easy money, healing lines, new garments, and human adulation.
"Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money, and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever."
It was instantaneous, if not for the blotches, the boils, and smell of rotting flesh coming from him, Gehazi would not have believed that it could happen so suddenly. He went out of the presence of the man of God, leprous, and as white as snow.
The consequences of greed, deceit, and disobedience are far reaching. Though men aren't walking about these days with limbs being slowly eaten away by leprosy of the flesh, spiritual leprosy is just as hideous if you have the spiritual eyes to see it.
Greed eats away a the soul and character of a man, it devours and deforms from within.
The tragedy is that today, it isn't Gehazi who's chasing down the chariots of the Syrian, but the men who claim to be the Elishas among us, those who should be above taking credit for the work God does, who ought to know that the Word is not a means of gain.
Once these self professed Elishas catch up to the chariot, they too feel as though their word will not have sufficient weight, and so utter the damning words, 'the Master sent me, He said for you to give me silver and garments.'
You can't sell something that was never yours to begin with!
The words of the Master echo to this day, as a warning to all who claim to be His servants, "freely ye have received, freely give."
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.