Greed vs God

October 14, 2018

Pastor John Hering

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.

17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.

After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”

21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.

22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’”

23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi.24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.

25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”

“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.

26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves?27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.

2 Kings 5:14-16, 19-27

What happened to Gordon? The neighbors were used to seeing him ride his bike around collecting cardboard boxes and bags full of junk. But, the neighbors hadn’t seen him for a while, so they called the police.  They found him. Gordon died of greed. Greed is no joke.  It hurts people like you, me, and God…and sometimes kills people like Gordon.  Greed is just one of many addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn, sports, etc.). Some would like to control their greed and others not so much.  Today we have the Bible’s account of the power of Greed and the power of God. It is really a showdown of

Greed Vs. God

Greed uses God to serve Money

He was a strong, wise, and wealthy soldier.  His voice could command thousands, dominate the conversation, or frighten away enemies.  Yet, all his power could do nothing to stop the disease of leprosy from eating away his skin. Naaman, the commander of the Aramean Army, heard about the Prophet Elisha, and how he could help him cure his leprosy.

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

Sounds like Naaman was trying to bankroll his health. But, it got him nowhere. God’s help is not for sale! God loves to give it away—and he gave Naaman help through his prophet Elisha free of charge. And it worked!2 Kings 5:15

14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

Elisha refused. Perhaps he wanted to avoid the impression that God’s help was for sale; that the prophet could do special tricks if bribed. Elisha was not going to use God to serve him money. That’s contentment—spiritual and financial peace!

Meanwhile, there was a boiling volcano of greed happening right next to Elisha in the heart of his servant Gehazi.

“After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”

Greed steers people off the path of wisdom and honesty. Greed deafens us to the good advice of blinds us to their example of godly management. Greed exploits the kindness and generosity of others. Greed uses God to serve money!

21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.

22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’” 23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi.24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.”

Greed convinces us that it’s okay to hide evidence. Greed uses God to serve money.

25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.”

Greed uses people with secrets and sly lies. Greed ruins our relationship with God.  And to remind him of greed’s power every day….

26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves?27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.”

Gehazi used God to serve money. He used his God-given position and the God-inspired generosity of Naaman to feed his greed. For Gehazi money became his God and greed his act of worship. We would do well to heed the warning the Holy Spirit inspired St Paul to write:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry”

Colossians 3:5

Paul lists up greed along with all sorts of sins that push God out of first place in our hearts.  God is serious about greed and warns in Ephesians 5:5

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

Greed can get you a lot of things, but a relationship with God is not one of them. Therefore, there must be a better way to use the blessings God provides for us. And after trying to use our way to get the things of this world and fail, don’t you think it would be time for us to try God’s way?  Yes, because

Generosity Uses Money to serve God

For many it is hard to believe that God’s way is the better way because it calls for faith—you know—trust that God will provide. And the pressures from Greed are so real from without and within. God is so good!  He doesn’t simply tell us the better way, but he leads his people to “get it” to “catch on” with a promise. Listen, I’ll read it and you see if you believe it:

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’”

Hebrews 13:5

Well? Did you catch it? The cure for Greed is Contentment.  And Contentment isn’t just an attitude or just one way of seeing things.  No! Contentment is a state of being—a gift from God, a choice the new man in Christ makes through faith! Here is the gift. Whether we have a little or a lot; job or no job; healthy or hurting; feeling good or feeling rotten; manic or depressed; …. The gift from God is his merciful commitment to always be with you. There is nothing a child of God has, does or experiences that would cause God to break his gracious promise,

“Never will I leave you!”

You heard this promise from Jesus when the disciples were trying to figure what in the world Jesus was thinking when he was talking about camels and needles!

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Do you really think it is impossible to generously use your money to serve God? I would argue that when you “get it”—that is when you trust in God who can do anything, you can be even more generous and content!

Elisha certainly believed that when he was in the middle of plowing his field and God called him to be a prophet. He burned his plowing equipment and used it as firewood to cook his oxen that he butchered for a party celebrating God’s gracious provision that comes—that always comes—with his call to follow. I wonder as Elisha was looking at piles of silver and gold and nice new clothes from Armani is he had flashbacks of God providing—like the widow who was about to lose her two sons and the Lord provided her a never ending jar of olive oil that she could sell to pay off the debt and keep her sons. Elisha could politely refuse the gifts because he already had a sponsor—The Lord Almighty!  And look what happened! Elisha’s generosity used money made from oil to serve and honor God.

Naaman’s generosity was also used to serve God. He learned that his leprosy was healed through the power of the Lord Almighty but even more so that he was forgiven of his sin and now he was ready to give glory to God, even if Elisha was not going to accept his gift!

17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.” (Tell the story of dirt from Mito).  Then he thought about his position in accompanying the king when he went to worship his false god and asked for Elisha’s blessing… “18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.  19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.”

And Naaman’s generosity showed itself in his willingness to give Gehazi more than he asked for:

23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing.”

What a contract between Naaman and Gehazi. The Syrian became an Israelite at heart and was cured of his leprosy. The Israelite became a Syrian at heart and was stuck with leprosy. What each had sown, he reaped.  A testimony to how one uses money—either to serve greed or to serve God.

For the times we have been tempted to be greedy we love to hear of Jesus.  He was never greedy for himself, but always “greedy” for us.  He came to overcome the temptation of greed and then to take all our sins of greed upon himself on the cross to bring us into perfect harmony with God and his gift of eternal life in heaven.  Until then, may we all be eager to use our blessings to generously serve God.

So what happened to Gordon?  Well, it was very similar to Gahezi. You see, Gordon led a quiet life. He had not been in trouble with the police, he had no relatives and, at the time he died, he seemed to have no friends. Perhaps the one remarkable thing about his life was the manner of his death – it became national news. The headlines were cold and disturbing: “Man found dead in tunnel of rubbish at home.” The reports told us he was 74 years old, he wore a ponytail, he cycled everywhere, his neighbors did not know him well, and he had lived most of his life in this house.  It took the police many hours to discover him, then dig him out of the rubbish. The police found Gordon in his home and the autopsy revealed that Gordon had died from dehydration!

It is easy for us to make the connection between Gordon, Gahezi and you and me. We know Satan will try and use greed for the things of this world in order to starve our souls and thirst our lives from the eternal nourishment it needs.  That’s why God’s people love to worship, hear God’s Word, remember their baptism and be refreshed through the Lord’s Supper.  May your hearts be filled with the joy of Jesus’ love and forgiveness as you use your blessings to joyfully serve the Lord your God all your days….. because you know that God’s power is greater than greed.  Amen!

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