Naaman, a Syrian, a courtier, a soldier, had many servants, and we read how wise and good they were, 2 Kgs. 5:13. Elisha, a holy prophet, a man of God, has but one servant, and he proves a base, lying, naughty fellow. Those that heard of Elisha at a distance honoured him, and got good by what they heard; but he that stood continually before him, to hear his wisdom, had no good impressions made upon him either by his doctrine or miracles. One would have expected that Elisha’s servant should be a saint (even Ahab’s servant, Obadiah, was), but even Christ himself had a Judas among his followers. The means of grace cannot give grace. The best men, the best ministers have often had those about them that have been their grief and shame. The nearer the church the further from God. Many come from the east and west to sit down with Abraham when the children of the kingdom shall be cast out. Here is,
I. Gehazi’s sin. It was a complicated sin. 1. The love of money, that root of all evil, was at the bottom of it. His master contemned Naaman’s treasures, but he coveted them, 2 Kgs. 5:20. His heart (says bishop Hall) was packed up in Naaman’s chests, and he must run after him to fetch it. Multitudes, by coveting worldly wealth, have erred from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 2. He blamed his master for refusing Naaman’s present, condemned him as foolish in not taking gold when he might have it, envied and grudged his kindness and generosity to this stranger, though it was for the good of his soul. In short, he thought himself wiser than his master. 3. When Naaman, like a person of accomplished manners, alighted from his chariot to meet him (2 Kgs. 5:21), he told him a deliberate lie, that his master sent him to him, and so he received that courtesy to himself that Naaman intended to his master. 4. He abused his master, and basely misrepresented him to Naaman as one that had soon repented of his generosity, that was fickle, and did not know his own mind, that would say and unsay, swear and unswear, that would not do an honourable thing but he must presently undo it again. his story of the two sons of the prophets was as silly as it was false; if he would have begged a token for two young scholars, surely less than a talent of silver might serve them. 5. There was danger of his alienating Naaman from that holy religion which he had espoused, and lessening his good opinion of it. he would be ready to say, as Paul’s enemies suggested concerning him (2 Cor. 12:16, 17), that, though Elisha himself did not burden him, yet being crafty he caught him with guile, sending those that made a gain of him. We hope that he understood afterwards that Elisha’s hand was not in it, and that Gehazi was forced to restore what he had unjustly got, else it might have driven him to his idols again. 6. His seeking to conceal what he had unjustly got added much to his sin. (1.) He hid it, as Achan did his gain, by sacrilege, in the tower, a secret place, a strong place, till he should have an opportunity of laying it out, 2 Kgs. 5:24. Now he thought himself sure of it, and applauded his own management of a fraud by which he had imposed, not only upon the prudence of Naaman, but upon Elisha’s spirit of discerning, as Ananias and Sapphira upon the apostles. (2.) He denied it: He went in, and stood before his master, ready to receive his orders. None looked more observant of his master, though really none more injurious to him; he thought, as Ephraim, I have become rich, but they shall find no iniquity in me, Hos. 12:8. His master asked him where he had been, “Nowhere, sir” (said he), “out of the house.” Note, One lie commonly begets another: the way of that sin is down-hill; therefore dare to be true.
II. The punishment of this sin. Elisha immediately called him to an account for it; and observe,
1. How he was convicted. He thought to impose upon the prophet, but was soon given to understand that the Spirit of prophecy could not be deceived, and that it was in vain to lie to the Holy Ghost. Elisha could tell him, (1.) What he had done, though he had denied it. “Thou sayest thou wentest nowhere, but went not my heart with thee?” 2 Kgs. 5:26. Had Gehazi yet to learn that prophets had spiritual eyes? or could he think to hide any thing from a seer, from him with whom the secret of the Lord was? Note, It is folly to presume upon sin in hopes of secresy. When thou goest aside into any by-path does not thy own conscience go with thee? Does not the eye of God go with thee? He that covers his sin shall not prosper, particularly a lying tongue is but for a moment, Prov. 12:19. Truth will transpire, and often comes to light strangely, to the confusion of those that make lies their refuge. (2.) What he designed, though he kept that in his own breast. He could tell him the very thoughts and intents of his heart, that he was projecting, now that he had got these two talents, to purchase ground and cattle, to leave Elisha’s service, and to set up for himself. Note, All the foolish hopes and contrivances of carnal worldlings are open before God. And he tells him also the evil of it: “Isa. it a time to receive money? Isa. this an opportunity of enriching thyself? Couldst thou find no better way of getting money than by belying thy master and laying a stumbling-block before a young convert?” Note, Those that are for getting wealth at any time, and by any ways and means whatsoever, right or wrong, lay themselves open to a great deal of temptation. Those that will be rich (per fas, per nefas; rem, rem, quocunque modo rem—by fair means, by foul means; careless of principle, intent only on money) drown themselves in destruction and perdition, 1 Tim. 6:9. War, and fire, and plague, and shipwreck, are not, as many make them, things to get money by. It is not a time to increase our wealth when we cannot do it but in such ways as are dishonourable to God and religion or injurious to our brethren or the public.
2. How he was punished for it: The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave to thee, 2 Kgs. 5:27. If he will have his money, he shall take his disease with it, Transit cum onere—It passes with this incumbrance. He was contriving to entail lands upon his posterity; but, instead of them, he entails a loathsome disease on the heirs of his body, from generation to generation. The sentence was immediately executed on himself; no sooner said than done: He went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. Thus he is stigmatized and made infamous, and carries the mark of his shame wherever he goes: thus he loads himself and family with a curse, which shall not only for the present proclaim his villany, but for ever perpetuate the remembrance of it. Note, The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of those that seek death, Prov. 21:6. Those who get wealth by fraud and injustice cannot expect either the comfort or the continuance of it. What was Gehazi profited, though he gained his two talents, when thereby he lost his health, his honour, his peace, his service, and, if repentance prevented not, his soul for ever? See Job 20:12-14