By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from 2 Kings 5:19-27
19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”
But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.” 21 So Gehazi went after Naaman. When Naaman saw someone running after him, he jumped down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is everything all right?” 22 He replied, “Yes, but my master has sent me to say, ‘Two members of a company of prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim; please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 Naaman said, “Please accept two talents.” He urged him, and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and gave them to two of his servants, who carried them in front of Gehazi. 24 When he came to the citadel, he took the bags from them, and stored them inside; he dismissed the men, and they left.
25 He went in and stood before his master; and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” He answered, “Your servant has not gone anywhere at all.” 26 But he said to him, “Did I not go with you in spirit when someone left his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to accept money and to accept clothing, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you, and to your descendants for ever.” So he left his presence leprous, as white as snow.
There are times when the Lord will bless us for our faithfulness; there are others when the Lord calls us to be satisfied with God alone as our reward. Gehazi’s story unspools much like a classic morality play. Elisha has refused payment for services rendered because he provided healing in obedience to the Lord, not for profit. Yet his servant exploits the situation by extorting this Gentile and then lying to Elisha.
Elisha however is fully aware of what has happened, and admonishes Gehazi, “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?” While it is true, as St. Paul says, that the worker is due his wages, there is also another sense in which we are not workers, but servants in the kingdom of the Most High. When God chooses to bring healing or restoration and makes us an instrument, we are not there to apply the market economy with its demand for profit maximization. We are to serve freely the grace God has entrusted to us.
When called to gift acts of grace, we cannot go running after those we help hoping to settle up. For the same God who determined us as instruments of the divine plan is fully capable of providing for our needs and ensuring that we have enough. When answering to God’s calling, we operate in God’s economy, not the earthly one.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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