TheGehazi Syndrome is all about greed. A morbid desire to acquire wealth – usuallythrough dishonest means. Greed comes from the latin word avaritia from where we get the word ‘avarice’. Theonline dictionary, Wikipeadia defines greed as “the inordinate desire topossess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keepit for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort.
It isapplied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.” Theonline free dictionary by Farlex defines it as “An excessive desire to acquireor possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect tomaterial wealth”. Finally,Dictionary.com defines greed as “excessive or rapacious desire, especially forwealth or possessions”. Otherterms used to refer to this phenomenon include: avarice, avidity, cupidity,covetousness; voracity, ravenousness, rapacity, gluttony, insatiableness, etc. Muchof the evils in the world today have their foundation on greed.
Beginning fromthe Garden of Eden, greed has plagued the world and brought with it much pain,suffering and human degradation. Itwas greed that moved our first mother, Eve, to take the forbidden fruit fromthe hand of the serpent because she imagined herself become like God withexpanded knowledge and higher experience than she had been presently granted byher creator. She was not satisfied by all the other provisions made for herenjoyment by the Creator. To her, it appeared that her happiness in thatbeautiful garden would not be complete without a taste of this single forbiddenfruit. EllenG White in patriarchs and prophets, pp 53, 54 tells us that “The angels hadcautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupiedin their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger fromtemptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciouslywandered from his side.
On perceiving that she was alone, she felt anapprehension of danger, but dismissed her fears, deciding that she hadsufficient wisdom and strength to discern evil and to withstand it. Unmindfulof the angels’ caution, she soon foundherself gazing with mingled curiosity and admiration upon the forbidden tree.The fruit was very beautiful, and she questioned with herself why God hadwithheld it from them”. Theresult of that first mistake can be seen all around us today. Howmany innocent blood has been shed on the altar of greed, only the heavenlywatcher can tell. KingSolomon, the wisest king that has ever lived has this counsel for us:”Donot wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but aglance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and flyoff to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23: 4, 5.
Ifthere is anyone that should know much about greed it is King Solomon, who livedaround 970–931 BC. Thebook of 1 Kings 10: 14 tells us that “Solomon received about twenty-five tonsof gold a year”. Contemporary English Version (CEV). At a value of $1,101 per Troy Ounce, this will beequivalent to $802,821,700 from gold alone per annum. In addition to thisfaboulous amount of wealth he also received tribute monies from other countriesand kingdoms, various gifts from the King of Hiram and other kings andmerchants, including gold and silver. As if these were not enough, King Solomontaxed his subjects – Isralites heavily. The burden of taxes was so much thatwhen he died, the people had to appeal to his son Rehoboam to lighten theirburden.
In addition to all his wealth, Solomon acquired 700 wives and 300concubines! Talk of greed. There are 365 days in a year. So assuming thatSolomon slept with one wife or concubine per night, it will take him nearly 3years to sleep with all his wives and concubines at least once. Did he reallyneed all that? Towards the end of his life, Solomon had this to say: “”Meaningless!Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generationscome and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and thesun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south andturns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. Allstreams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streamscome from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one cansay. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.
“Ecclesiastes 1: 2-8. “Isaid to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what isgood.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness.
And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, andembracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what wasgood for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. Iundertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.
Imade gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I madereservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and femaleslaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herdsand flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold formyself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and femalesingers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater byfar than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
Idenied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My hearttook delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet whenI surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everythingwas meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”Ecclesiastes 1: 1-11 Greedhas never bode well for humanity. As we saw with Eve, the immediate consequenceof greed was fear, anxiety and distrust. Subsequently, pain, suffering and lossof all that God had graciously given to them; then came in all other forms ofevils imaginable, and ultimately death.
This same trend has continued with allthat have sold themselves to greed. Achanwas a respected member of the Hebrew nation. From the tribe of Judah – the sametribe that our Lord Jesus descended; one of Israel’s leading fighting men. Awitness to all the mighty deeds of God in the wilderness; one of those whoheard God pronounce the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai; and a communityleader. He was present at the pre-mobilisation briefing held by Joshua as theIsraelites prepared to attack Jericho.
Joshua had said: “But keep away from thedevoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by takingany of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destructionand bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze andiron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.” Joshua 6:18, 19. Afterthe fall of Jericho, however, Achan decided to play a smart one. How could helet go of these beautiful articles of Jericho. What would happen if he helpedhimself with a few? Aferall no one was around to report him to Joshua.
Surely,God wont mind if he took just a few; afterall, there are hundreds of thousandsof precious things to take to the Lord’s house. He must have flattered himselfthat it didn’t matter if he took just a little of the forbidden things.’afterall, in this life one has to be smart to survive”. Unfortunatelyfor Achan, things did not work out as he had planned. Unknown to him, or maybehe knew, but blinded by greed, he refused to acknowledge That presence.
Yes,greed blinds people to the ultimate reality. When eventually the bubble burst,this was what he said: “Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against theLord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder abeautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of goldweighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in theground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Joshua 7: 20, 21. Andthe consequence? Achan and his entire family, his livestock and all that heowned including his tent and the loot, were all destroyed! We are not sure whyhe has to be destroyed along with all he owned, including his children, but onething is sure: greed kills not just the immediate perpetrator, but also thosearound him – call it collateral damages if you like. Thecase of Gehazi is even more pathetic. Gehaziwas the servant of Elisha, a prophet of God.
In 2 Kings chapter 5 we read theinteresting story of Elisha’s encounter with the Aramean General, Naaman. Thisgeneral visits Israel on the recommendation of a little unnamed slave girl, toseek cure for his leprosy. On the instructions of Elisha, Naaman, initiallyhesitating, baths seven times in the River Jordan. Onreceiving his healing, Naaman returns to Elisha to offer his gratitude.
Elishahowever turns down his offer of gifts. However, as Naaman was returning toSyria, Gehazi, Elisha’s servant runs after him and deceives him into giving him(Gehazi) some of the gifts that had earlier been turned down by Elisha. Evenwhen he returned from his unholy transaction, he continues with his lies. Inthe end, he became an inheritor of Naaman’s leprosy. Thisstory is very intriguing for several reason. Gehazi, being the servant ofElisha, had witnessed several miracles performed by God through Elisha.
Gehaziwas present when Elisha, through the power of God, multiplied the widow’s oliveoil (2 Kings 4:1-7); he witnessed the resurrection of the Shunammite’s Son (2Kings 4: 8 – 37), and many other mighty deeds. He knows that God is able to showElisha hidden things. But Gehazi was blinded by greed. He was not satisfiedwith the humble life style of his master. So when Naaman showed up at Elisha’shome with all the expensive gifts, Gehazi could not understand the foolishnessof Elisha in turning away such an opportunity to bid goodbye to their penury.
Gehazidecided that if this old prophet was not interested in leaving poverty, hewould help himself. He decided to act smart. He must have imagined himselfbeing smarter than his dumb master. Perhaps he must have said to himself “afterall heaven helps those who help themselves”.
Whatever were his thoughts, he wassoon to realise that his smartness would end in doom. For his greed, he livedthe rest of his life a leper, and condemned his entire lineage to a generationof lepers. Everysucceeding generation have been faced with this cankerworm of greed. A story istold of a Permanent Secretary in one of the Ministries in Nigeria whoappropriated to himself all the money meant to execute a youth empowermentprogramme in one of the geopolitical zones of the country. This individual wentahead and signed the necessary papers, showing that the projects under theprogramme have been completed.
When confronted by the officer in-charge withexecuting the programme, the Permanent Secretary replied that it was turn byturn – and that the complainant should await her turn. Even when deedeventually got to the supervising Minister, the case was killed. Itis greed that has led to hundreds of thousands of abandoned or poorly executedproject across Nigeria and many other countries of the world. Unfortunately,the church that should cry out against these things have not been spared of thecancer. Whatcauses this inordinate desire called greed? Without doubt, the primary cause ofgreed is the sin problem.
With the entrance of sin into our world came allmanners of evil habits, including greed. Sin led to a distrust of God and Hisintentions for humanity, including his ability to provide for humanity. Withthis uncertainty, developed Man’s desire to help himself throughself-preservation. Thus, many people that find themselves in positions ofresponsibility see such positions as opportunities to accumulate as muchmaterial wealth to secure their present comfort and those of their posterity.
In this quest, many are willing to disregard all right principles andethics. They forget the God who haspromised in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares theLord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and afuture”. Ishould not be misunderstood to be campaigning against honest quest to acquirewealth in order to take care of one’s needs and responsibilities. There isnothing inherently wrong in wealth; but the process through which we acquirethe wealth is extremely important as well as the importance we attach towealth. The scriptures did not say that money is evil; rather it is the LOVE ofmoney that is the root of all evils. “The love of money causes all kinds of evil.Some people have left the faith, because they wanted to get more money, butthey have caused themselves much sorrow” 1 Timothy 6:10 (New Century Version). Sowhat should be our attitude towards wealth especially at this time of theearth’s history? Thefirst principle of relating to wealth is recognising that everything on earthbelongs to God.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, andall who live in it” Psalm 24:1. Such recognition will enable us to view allmaterial goods in our possession as a trust, with us as stewards of this good.Understanding that we are mere stewards of everything in our possession, shouldhave a moderating influence on how we proceed to acquire wealth and all theother good things in life. Beyond that, such knowledge should also moderate howwe utilise the resources at our disposal – not for lavish on vanity, but forthe benefit of those who have not been so endowed as us. Part of the measuresof our love for God is the extent to which we use our material possessions tomeet the needs of the less priviledged in the society. “If anyone has materialpossessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, howcan the love of God be in that person?”I John 3:17.
Knowingthat we do not ACTUALLY own our material possessions, but mere stewards, willalso keep us humble, and shield us from idolising these possessions. “Commandthose who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put theirhope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richlyprovides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to berich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way theywill lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, sothat they may take hold of the life that is truly life” I Timothy 6:17 – 19. We will come to understand that “life does notconsist in an abundance of possessions” Luke12:15.
Afinal word on greed: the Bible is clear on what our attitude should beregarding material possessions in this present age: “Anyone who has a differentteaching does not agree with the true teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and theteaching that shows the true way to serve God. This person is full of pride andunderstands nothing, but is sick with a love for arguing and fighting aboutwords. This brings jealousy, fighting, speaking against others, evil mistrust,and constant quarrels from those who have evil minds and have lost the truth.They think that serving God is a way to get rich. Serving God does make us veryrich, if we are satisfied with what we have. We brought nothing into the world, so we can take nothing out. But, ifwe have food and clothes, we will be satisfied with that. Those who want to become rich bringtemptation to themselves and are caught in a trap.
They want many foolish andharmful things that ruin and destroy people. The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have left thefaith, because they wanted to get more money, but they have caused themselvesmuch sorrow” 1 Timothy 6: 3 – 10 (New Century Version)