Gehazi, Elisha’s Servant Who Got Greedy (2 Kings 5:15-27)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 20, 2019

We are going to talk about Gehazi in a minute. I encourage you to turn to 2 Kings 5:15.

 Chuck Swindoll writes: 

Ministry serves others; greed serves self. Ministry calls a woman or a man to set aside selfish gain in order to assist another. Greed is an excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire something for the benefit of self. A minister must live by the highest ethical standard, especially in regard to wealth and material possessions. A greedy person will sacrifice his or her ethical standard when it blocks the path to an object of desire. Whereas ministry uses things to serve people, greed uses people to obtain things.

Greed is never acceptable. Some work hard to rationalize it, sanctify it, even attempt to build a theology around it. Still, greed is a deadly enemy of genuine service to others.[1]

I recently read the following:

Zogby recently conducted a large benchmark poll in which respondents identified “greed/materialism” as the number one “most urgent problem in American culture.” “Poverty/economic justice” finished in second place. In a 2014 Vanity Fair poll, 78 percent of Americans disagreed with the famous Gordon Gekko quote “Greed is good.” Only 19 percent agreed. A recent poll of Economist readers asked “What is the deadliest sin?” and, greed ranked number one.

But, surprisingly, although everyone thinks greed is a terrible problem, most people don’t think they are greedy. When the BBC conducted a poll on the seven deadly sins (anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride and sloth), greed was last on the list in answer to two questions: Which sin have you ever committed? and Which sin have you committed in the past month? Plenty of Brits copped to being lazy, proud, envious and angry. But greedy? Seventh out of seven, last on the list. Tim Keller, argues “even though it is clear that the world is filled with greed and materialism, almost no one thinks it is true of them … Greed hides itself from the victim.”[2]

Today, we look at Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. We began this section last week. Last week we saw Naaman healed and now we will see Naaman want to pay Elisha. Elisha refuses the pay, but his servant schemes to get the money.

My theme is:

Gehazi, Elisha’s Servant Who Got Greedy

My application: Greed leads to a multitude of sins.

Let’s read 2 Kings 5:15-27:

 When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Naaman said, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand 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.” So he departed from him some distance.

20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” 21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 He said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.’” 23 Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him. 24 When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.25 But 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 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male 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 as white as snow.

  1. First, we see Naaman’s offer (verses 15-19).
    1. This is picking up after the healing of Naaman.
    2. Verse 15, says, “when he returned to the man of God.” This is about Naaman returning to Elisha. Elisha is called a “man of God.” That is a wonderful title to be called.
    3. Naaman is a military commander in Aram/Syria.
    4. He is grateful to be healed.
    5. Naaman has now dipped 7 times in the Jordan River and now he returns to Elisha.
    6. Notice that he comes to Elisha with his entourage, it says “with all his company.” Naaman is a high ranking official and so he comes with a large group.
      1. Have you ever seen a show in which a person travels with an entourage? I am an expert because I have watched Madam Secretary and Blue Bloods. In both shows the main character travels with a motor cade.
      2. Naaman has a large group with him.
    7. Notice, Naaman gives a lot of credit to the Lord.
    8. He essentially says the only God is the Lord in Israel.
    9. This is a major profession of faith. Ever since Gen. 12:1-3 the Lord was wanting to bless others through Israel. One source shares: Sadly, Naaman’s confession of faith condemns most Israelites of that era, since they have rejected the one true God and embraced gods that cannot heal. Jesus makes this point while rebuking the people of Nazareth in Luke 4:23–30.[3]
    10. The Moody Bible Commentary: Realizing that he had been healed, Naaman returned to the man of God, along with his entourage, and made a surprising confession. What was even more impressive was his change of attitude toward Elijah. He stated, Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel (v. 15). The story of Naaman illustrates God’s faithfulness to Gentiles. Anyone who turns to the God of Israel, even in the period of the OT, would find grace, forgiveness, and a relationship with Him. Even citizens of Israel did not have the same conviction.[4]
    11. He now offers Elisha a gift.
      1. He probably comes from a background in which you pay profits for their work.
      2. He for sure believes people should be paid for what they do.
    12. In verse 16, Elisha claims the Lord with what he says. “As the Lord lives…” We serve a living God. Elisha stands before the Lord, the Lord is his witness. Elisha is saying this is the Lord’s will. Elisha refused to take anything. Naaman urged him, but he still would not take anything.
      1. This is very honorable of Elisha.
      2. I am sure he could have used the money for something, but he refused.
  • I must ask, can I have that kind of integrity?
  1. Elisha was recognizing that he did not do anything, the Lord did the miracle. Therefore, he could not take the money.

I like how Swindoll writes about this: The wise prophet dismissed him in peace, trusting that this was merely the beginning of the general’s long journey to becoming a devout, mature worshiper of the one true God.

When someone becomes a brand-new believer, the next few days are crucial. The information he or she receives during that brief period may either confirm grace or steal it. “OK, you have received the free gift of salvation in Christ and your place in heaven is secure. Now you must be baptized. Now you must start tithing. Now you must clean up your life. Now you must give up cigarettes, and alcohol, and your foul language, and . . . Now you must . . . now you must . . . now you must . . .” The poor, new Christian is left to wonder, “But you said I was free! What happened?”

When Naaman found he had been cleansed, he wanted to give the prophet a gift—not a bribe, like before, but a gift of thanksgiving. Observe Elisha’s noble and unselfish reaction:

But [Elisha] said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” And [Naaman] urged him to take it, but he refused. 2 Kings 5:16[5]

 What Elisha refused was no small sum. We don’t trade in talents and shekels, so let me convert the gift into today’s currency. Naaman offered this humble servant of God 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold. That comes to roughly $1.1 million dollars. (The clothes were by no means cheap, but they were probably included as a gesture of friendship with the original payback.)

Imagine the ministry potential of a sum like that in the hands of an honest prophet of God. And, let’s face it, if you were the one living on a prophet’s salary, that would be enough money to make your eyes tear up. You’d be fixed for life. So why did Elisha refuse the gifts? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but we can put enough clues together from the story to conclude that it was to reinforce the lesson that Naaman had learned. The Lord cannot be charmed. His salvation is freely given by grace, through faith. Taking Naaman’s money would compromise that message.[6]

  1. In verses 17-18, Naaman is sharing how he will carry dirt back and make a sacrifice to the Lord. Naaman recognized they will only offer to the Lord. In Ex. 20:24 God instructed them about making alters of dirt.
  2. One other source shares: It is very evident from Naaman’s explanation, “for thy servant,” etc., that he wanted to take a load of earth with him out of the land of Israel, that he might be able to offer sacrifice upon it to the God of Israel, because he was still a slave to the polytheistic superstition, that no god could be worshipped in a proper and acceptable manner except in his own land, or upon an altar built of the earth of his own land. And because Naaman’s knowledge of God was still adulterated with superstition, he was not yet prepared to make an unreserved confession before men of his faith in Jehovah as the only true God, but hoped that Jehovah would forgive him if he still continued to join outwardly in the worship of idols, so far as his official duty required.[7]
  3. Basically, he wants to take dirt back to build an alter.
  4. Verse 19 shows that Elisha sends him away in peace.
  5. Elisha does not approve or disapprove of this.
  6. It also shares that he has gone some distance before the next event.
  1. Now, we see Gehazi’s lust and lies (verses 20-24).
    1. In verse 20 the narrative switched to Gehazi. This is different because he has not had the spotlight until now.
    2. Gehazi is modified by “the servant of Elisha,” and “the man of God.” This is showing who he is and who he is connected with.
    3. This verse clues us into Gehazi’s thinking. He thought or “said to himself.”
      1. This sermon could focus on controlling our thinking.
      2. Thinking can be dangerous. Col. 3:1-2 tells us what to think on. Phil. 4:8 also talks about our thinking. 2 Cor. 10:5 tells us to take every thought into captivity.
  • We must focus on positive and good thoughts.
  1. We can gossip in our head and that is not good.
  2. Sin begins in our mind.
  3. We start thinking: “I deserve better.” We start think “I deserve a nice car like that” and then we lust.
  • Or, we start thinking, “I work hard, this pornography helps me relax.” Then sin begins.
  • Or, maybe it is different, we are meditating on a person of the opposite sex. We think, “well they dress that way, that is their choice. If she is going to dress that way, I will look.” We may think, “I am a man, God gave me these desires.”
  1. Or, we think, “it is only a white lie…” Sin begins this way. We must make our thoughts bounce. Change the channel in your head. Sometimes we must change the channel a few times.
  2. Screen your thinking with the Word of God.
  1. Gehazi is justifying his greed. He says, Elisha (his master) spared Naaman by not taking what he brought. Now, Gehazi is going to catch up and take it. Notice also how Gehazi says, “as the Lord lives…” this means he is including the Lord in this greed and deceit. This is an example of taking the Lord’s Name in vain (Ex. 20:7). He is even basically saying that this is the Lord’s will.
  2. In verse 21we see that Gehazi catches up to him by running. He is running a marathon or something to catch up.
  3. In verse 22 we see Gehazi talk with Naaman. Now, there is a total lie.
    1. There is an application and that is that greed gets us into lies.
    2. Lies then build up.
  4. He says this is from his master, Elisha.
  5. 2 young men of the sons of the prophets have arrived.
  6. They came from Ephraim.
  7. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.
  8. In verse 23 we see that Naaman gives him what he asks but he doubles the amount of silver.
  9. IVP BBC OT: Considering what Naaman had been prepared to offer, Gehazi’s request is extremely modest, yet it is still a considerable sum. A talent of silver is three hundred years of wages (for someone making thirty to thirty-five thousand a year, that would be like getting about ten million dollars), and Naaman doubles it. Gehazi is trying to set himself up for life.[8]
  10. Two of his servants went along with him.
  11. In verse 24 they come to his house and the servants leave.
  • Lastly, we see Gehazi’s lie and consequence (verses 25-27).
    1. So, now, in verse 25 Elisha is present.
    2. I don’t know if they live together or not, but Elisha is back in the narrative. Elisha asks where he has been. Gehazi lies again, saying that he did not go anywhere.
    3. In verse 26, we see Elisha respond. Elisha essentially says that he was present spiritually when he went there.
    4. Elisha says that now is not the time to receive money and clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants.
    5. IVP BBC OT: Elisha’s reference to olive groves, vineyards, livestock and servants all reflects what Gehazi could purchase for himself with the money. His newfound wealth would have bought him a life of luxury and leisure. Thus Gehazi was reducing the high prophetic calling to a mercenary vocation that exploited divine power for personal gain.[9]
      1. An application here is Numbers 32:23: be sure your sin will find you out.
      2. We think our sin is hidden but it is not.
  • The Lord sees everything!
  1. It does not say that he receives olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen, but maybe he did. Or, maybe Elisha is exaggerating.
  2. In verse 27 we see the consequence. Now, Gehazi receives the leprosy. It also says that his descendants will also receive leprosy– forever.
  3. Swindoll shares: Apparently Gehazi repented, though he was never cleansed of the consequence, his leprosy. According to Hebrew law, he was able to continue serving as Elisha’s assistant because his skin had turned completely white (Leviticus 13:12–13). Later, he would stand before King Jehoram as the servant of Elisha. He had been restored to ministry, but his white, flaking skin would forever remind him of three mental images: the face of the Syrian, whose faith he compromised; the disappointed look of his master, whom he had undermined; and the awful day when he gave in to greed.[10]

In this account we see many of the Ten Commandments violated. We see taking the Lord’s name in vain, we see lies and we see others. Watch this:

Ignitermedia video:

The Ten Commandments

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.




[1] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books.

[2] Adapted from Ted Scofield, “Everybody Else’s Problem, Pt. 2,” Mockingbird blog (7-28-15)

[3] Paul R. House, 1, 2 Kings, vol. 8, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 273.

[4] The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 20861-20865). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[5] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books.

[6] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books.

[7] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 226.

[8] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 5:23.

[9] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 5:26.


Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s