Two college students who were taking organic chemistry had done so well on their midterm exam that they didn’t feel it was necessary to study for their final. The night before the test, they partied away and ended up sleeping in and missing the exam. So they came up with a plan and concocted a story to tell the professor. They said they were visiting a sick friend out of town, and upon returning from their trip, they got a flat tire and weren’t unable to get back in time. So the professor said, “That’s fine. You can retake the test.”
But the professor had them take the test in separate rooms. And instead of the normal questions on the test, there were two questions they had to answer. If they answered them correctly, they would ace the test and get an A. They answered the first question easily, which was worth five points. The second question, worth 95 points, was as follows: “Which tire?”
Have you ever done something you knew was wrong and then tried to cover it up? The Bible tells the story of a man who was in this very predicament. When given the opportunity to confess his wrongdoing, he blew it and paid a heavy price. This was despite the fact that he had experienced incredible spiritual privilege. His name was Gehazi, and he was the prophet Elisha’s servant.
One day Gehazi found himself face-to-face with Naaman, a powerful Syrian commander who had come to visit Elisha. Naaman had everything the world had to offer. He had power and prestige and was adored by the people and his king. But he had the dreaded disease of leprosy, a state of living death he had to deal with every day.
One of Naaman’s servants was a young girl who had been taken into captive from Israel. She told Naaman about the miracle-working Elisha. So Naaman made the trip to meet the prophet. What a scene it must have been as the officer arrived in his beautiful, gleaming chariot, pulled by Arabian stallions and surrounded by his bodyguards. He waited for the prophet to come out and welcome him and heal him. He even had brought a large sum of money to pay Elisha.
But Elisha didn’t even come out of his house. He simply sent Gehazi outside with the message, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (2 Kings 5:10 NIV). Naaman scoffed and decided that he didn’t want to do that. But one of his soldiers talked him into it. So he reluctantly went down to the Jordan and into the water, and sure enough, on the seventh time after coming out of the water, he was healed. His leprosy was completely gone. Overjoyed, Naaman wanted to pay Elisha, but the prophet turned him down. So Naaman left, giving glory to God. He resolved only to worship the Lord God of Israel from that time on.
Naaman and his entourage had been gone for a while when Gehazi began devising a personal get-rich-quick scheme. Without Elisha’s knowledge, he ran after Naaman, and when he caught up with him, he told him that Elisha was asking for two sets of clothing and silver. Naaman gladly gave the servant even more than what he asked for, and Gehazi went on his way.
But when Elisha asked Gehazi where he had been, he denied going anywhere. So Elisha told 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? … Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever” (2 Kings 5:26–27 NIV).
What we learn from the life of Gehazi is that greed and covetousness can destroy you. Gehazi greedily coveted that which was not his to take. The Bible classifies greed and covetousness with sins like sexual immorality, evil thoughts, wickedness, pride, theft, adultery and even murder. The Bible warns us time and time again to beware of greed and coveting. Coveting – wanting what you don’t have – is such a serious sin that it made God’s top 10 – the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:17). Coveting can destroy your life. It certainly destroyed Gehazi’s.
The Bible also records the stories of others whose greed and covetousness brought destruction. We can look all the way back to the beginning, where we find Eve in the Garden of Eden, coveting the forbidden fruit. Not only did she covet it, but she ate it. And the results were sin and death entering the human race.
We read in Joshua about a man named Achan who coveted clothing, took it and hid it. His particular sin brought defeat to his nation and not only resulted in his own death, but in his family’s deaths as well.
King David coveted Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and as a result, he brought the sword on his household for generations.
In the Book of Acts, we see Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit because they were covetous, which resulted in their deaths.
That is why the Bible tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV).
American psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
The antidote to covetousness is contentment. The apostle Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Our contentment does not come from what we have; it comes from knowing God. Hebrews reminds us, “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 NIV). No matter what happens to us in life, God is always there with us. And He will stand by us.