Sunday, February 12, 2012

A forgotten story from Second Kings

The first lesson this morning was the story of Naaman the Syrian leper. It’s an old favorite.

Naaman, a general in the Aramean army sends to the King of Israel for a miraculous healing. The king sees Naaman’s approach as a means of picking a fight. Elijah comes to the king and saves the day. It’s a great story focusing on the healing power of Israel’s God and the duty of obedience. That is as least part of the message.

When we read the lesson in church we generally stop with Naaman declaring the greatness of Israel’s God.

It’s a shame we don’t read further. There is another interesting story that follows on the heels of the Naaman story: the story of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha (2 Kings 5:20 – 27).

When Naaman is healed of his leprosy he attempts to pay off Elisha with part of his “ten talents of silver, six thousands shekels of gold and ten sets of garments.” Elisha refuses. Naaman then requests soil from Israel in order to have a proper sacrificial site in Aram.

But after Naaman leaves Elisha, Elisha’s servant Gehazi chases him down and convinces Naaman to give a proper tribute to Elisha: a talent of silver and two fancy suits. Then he lies to the prophet (never a wise thing to do). As a consequence of his greed, Gehazi is cursed with leprosy.

How have I missed this lovely little story all these years?

And what would the prosperity gospel, give to get, preachers say about this? If God wanted to bestow riches upon his faithful servants, wouldn’t Elisha be toward the front of the line? And why would Gehazi be cursed for his greed? The idea that God gives goodies to the children in response to their faithful sowing the seeds of faith seems to me to be belied by the story of Elisha and Gehazi. But I think the whole prosperity Gospel is nonsense anyway.

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