Steal Big or Steal Little
Growing up in New York City, I had the opportunity to work in different ethnic cultures other than my own Hispanic culture. At the start of my adult life I went to work for a trucking company, not knowing that it was a front for the Italian Mafia. My job was simple, pick up some items and then dropped them off. There was nothing illegal about my job. On the first day of the job, the driver of the truck gave me a rundown of how this business operated. A sort of unofficial employee handbook to help me fit in around the job.
The driver stressed one piece of advice over all others and it was: Steal big or steal small, you’re gonna get the same punishment, so if you are going to steal, steal big.
Strange advice, but true. In that culture stealing wasn’t about the amount you stole, but about the betrayal of trust. You can’t be trusted if you take a small thing, or a whole truck.
Trust is something that God wants us to have with Him. 2 Kings chapter 5 is a great and historical recounting of Naaman, the commander of the Aram army, who was healed of leprosy. It is also a great lesson about trusting in God for all of our needs.
Leprosy was a death sentence kind-of-disease, but it usually was a long death sentence. In the Jewish culture, God commanded the Children of Israel take any leprous person and put them away from everyone else so that they wouldn’t spread the disease.
Naaman is told by Elisha, the prophet of the God of Israel, to wash himself in the Jordan river and when he did, he we would be healed of his leprosy. Namaan who was not part of God’s chosen crew, did just that and was healed.
Naaman’s story is popular material for most preachers, inspiring belief in God, obedience and miraculous healing. But what happens next isn’t always included in sermons.
…After Naaman had traveled some distance, 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.”
2 Kings 5:19-20 NIV
Gehazi witnessed Naaman being healed by Elisha and also heard Naaman offer to give a financial gift to Elisha the Prophet. Elisha turned down his financial gift (2 Kings 5:15-17) and Naaman went back to his country.
Now Gehazi feels the tug of need in his life. He has been living with Elisha and Elisha lived a very humble/poor life. Elisha doesn’t have a health plan or a retirement plan and offers even less to his servant, Gehazi. Many of the miracles that Gehazi experienced were performed by Elisha because of extreme lack, like when Elisha made a small amount of bread feed one hundred men or making oil multiply.
Gehazi sees two futures, one is with Elisha which meant living in the humblest of circumstances or one with himself in control and making a much better financial future for himself through a very generous and grateful Naaman.
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. 2 Kings 5:21
Naaman was an experienced commander of a large army and he knew that if someone was running hard after him — and was a friendly — then bad news was sure to follow.
But Gehazi assured him that there was no bad news, instead, there was some good news. Gehazi said that Elisha sent him to ask for some money for his two friends that had just come to town.
Naaman was more than pleased to give in response to the healing he received and gave two talents of silver to Gehazi. A talent of silver weighed about 72 pounds and Naaman sent two servants on horses to escort the 144 pounds of silver. If you had that much weight in silver today, you would have over $84,000.
As Gehazi got closer to where Elisha lived, he took the 144 pounds of silver and sent Naaman’s servants back. He had a plan and that plan did not need witnesses. Stashing the silver in his house, he rushed back to Elisha. I can imagine him hurried and worried that he would be found out but feeling confident that he was now in the clear.
2 Kings 5:25-27
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.
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? 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 had broken Elisha’s trust by going behind his back, lying to Naaman, taking money, hiding his thievery and then lying to Elisha’s face that he didn’t go anywhere. It is powerful to hear Elisha say that he saw Gehazi running up to Naaman’s chariot and witnessed the whole exchange.
Trust takes a long time to develop, but it is easily destroyed.
John Maxwell wrote: “…trust is necessary in ALL good relationships. Good marriages, business relationships, and friendships all require trust. Without it, there can be no open and honest interaction, and the relationship will be only temporary.” You can read more from his blog post: Build your relationships on the solid ground of trust
Gehazi did not trust in God to provide him with all his needs even though he experienced God providing for his life and the lives of others and in a supernatural way. Elisha condemned him for this lack of trust and trustworthiness with the same disease that Naaman was cured from— leprosy.
If we make the mistake of looking at Gehazi and see him as a diabolical, sneaking, thieving rat, then we might miss something very important: Gehazi was a regular person with normal desires to see a better future for himself.
Gehazi’s treachery wasn’t that he wanted good things for his life, it was that he put himself at the center of that good life and because he was the center, he had to take his future in his own hands. God taught Gehazi a lesson on trust by securing his future as a leper. Every time Gehazi saw the worsening sores and suffered the effects of the disease, he would be reminded that he could trust God’s word spoken about his future: “…leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.”
Do you sometimes feel like there isn’t enough money or love or good things in your life?
Well, God wants to let you know that if you have Him in your life, you have more than everyone else. Every day you wake up is a gift from God. The gift is not that you wake to a live without need or to experience pain, but that you have awakened into His life.
Paul knew this when he wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul wasn’t emphasizing that death was better than life, but he was saying that being alive to live for Christ and tell others about Him was to the benefit of everyone else.
Living for Christ is living for the benefit of others.
If you are feeling depressed because life isn’t going well or maybe it’s been a complete wreck, I want to let you know that you don’t have to worry, there is hope. The hope is this, that you are alive and that means that you can live a full life, living for Christ and living for the benefit of others! If you trust God for this, you’ll never live in depression or live a life like Gehazi’s.
Gehazi stole big and it cost him big. He stole trust from Elisha and misplaced his trust in silver rather than in God. If he had only given a little trust to God, he would have received a big reward. I guess if I had to give advice to Gehazi on his first day on the job, I would have said, Give Little, Get Much.
Jesus said it best, “…For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” — Matthew 17:20 (ESV).
With God, a little trust, goes a long way!