Are Christians disobeying orders?


Gehazi was in the service of the prophet Elisha. He was the prophet’s bodyguard and messenger. He disobeyed orders, made one mistake and suffered for it. He had a problem with wanting something, he did not deserve. He did not want much, but it was enough to cause him to lie and to cheat. Because of it, he could no longer be trusted (II Kings 4-5).

Gehazi’s master, the prophet Elisha, was a hermit. Like a Nazarene, he could not touch or live like other men. Gehazi was his go between the world and himself. Gehazi was good in what he did. He carried out his master’s orders to the letter. Elisha trusted his servant intimately. At times, he even asked for his advice. When his hostess appeared troubled, he had Gehazi gain her confidence and determine that she wanted a son of her own. And when that child deceased, Gehazi had to carry the prophet’s staff and lay it on the lad. Gehazi too benefited by living with a man of God that was endowed with gifts from heaven. Elisha was one of the three men that revived a dead person. The other two were Elijah and Jesus.

Living with a man of God was a lonely life. The constant denial of material things got to Gehazi. He just could not understand why his master kept refusing the things people offered him for his services. Other religious men were demanding a tenth, but Elisha took nothing. It was as if he was afraid that he could lose being a servant of the Living God. He did not regard himself as a miracle worker but a tool in the hands of God. Thus, when Naaman the Syrian general was healed of leprosy and wanted to reward his master substantially and his master declined the Syrian’s generosity, Gehazi felt that why could he not claim a little of the big reward? He went after Naaman, made up a story of two needy young men and asked for one talent of silver and two sets of clothes. The general gave Gehazi two talents and two sets of clothes. Gehazi hid them in Elisha’s home.

Elisha had anticipated what Gehazi might do. It was too tempting to pass up such an opportunity to make life easier. Only, the principle of honesty and trust had been violated. To get part of the reward, Gehazi lied about having been sent by his master. He did not just defame himself but also his master. Gehazi’s action cast a shadow on Elisha’s relationship with God. The shame he brought on himself was much more severe for Elisha. Perhaps that is why the punishment for such a violation of disobedience was so severe. Now, Gehazi had to carry his guilt in public as a leper. Herein after, he too had to live in isolation.¬†

To a modern reader, Gehazi’s punishment for his transgression was too severe. Could we learn something from Elisha’s sentencing? What would Jesus have done? He did send out His disciples and instructed them to win converts and not earn money (Matthew 10:5-9). They were to turn enemies into friends (Matthew 5:43-47). That was precisely what Elisha had done. He had won Naaman over to the God of Israel. He was a God that healed even Israel’s enemy without charge. Gehazi created the opposite impression of God and His servant. Like Naaman’s god, Israel’s God also exacted payment. Gehazi made his master’s religion appear to be like the Syrian religion. Only those that could pay the gods could be served. That was not the intent of Elisha nor was it the intent of Israel’s religion, neither was it of Jesus. Jesus was not in the business of making money but in the business of rescuing souls and a nation from doom (Matthew 23:37-39).

People, in the service of Jesus, were urged to seek the kingdom of God first and do what is right, then all the other necessities that life requires would be provided (Mt.6: 33). Earthly goods tend to get in the way of God’s service. Instead of serving God, we spend our time guarding what the world regards as valued. These are earthly treasures that compete with heaven. They and not God lord it over us (Mt.6: 19-24). Like Gehazi, we lose our ability to see our own reason for being in the service of God. Of course, ministers ought to be paid for serving us, but it should not be their task to raise the funds to sustain them and the costly facilities that house congregations (Mt.10: 10). Jesus did not commission His disciples to build sanctuaries and cathedrals but to teach people how to live godly lives (Mt.28: 19). To make disciples means to gather students and teach them the facts of life. That was precisely what Elisha was doing and Gehazi, the student, did not get it.

Worldly goods have a negative affect on the people that need spiritual or religious guidance. In Gehazi’s day, only a Naaman could pay for services rendered. Also in his day, religion was located in religious buildings and not in the hearts and homes of the people. It was when religious leaders began to erect buildings to house God with his people that financial problems got in the way of spreading God’s message. We are doing the same thing. We spent more on our facilities than we do on missions. Christianity spread when believers met in homes and on beaches. They keep on growing in countries where they are not allowed to erect sanctuaries. As a lad, we met in a home. We were not permitted to build a church nor did we have the means. We did not even have a minister but one of those circuit travelers that married and buried people when he was near by. We had larger meetings than I had in some of the churches I attended and served. Money cannot buy us any favors with God nor should it with being a Christian. Like Gehazi, we have lost our priority. Churches, like Synagogues in Jesus day, discouraged people from coming to God. Jesus, Himself, was kicked out (Lk.4: 28-30). There was a reason why He sent His followers into homes to make disciples (Mt.10:11). Somewhere in time, the builders have replaced the Builder (Mt.16:18). Are Christians disobeying orders?