Greed is Good?

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."

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.

"Everything is all right," Gehazi answered. "My master sent me to say, 'Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.' "

"By all means, take two talents," said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha.
   "Where have you been, Gehazi?" Elisha asked.
   "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, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever." Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow. 2 Kings 5:19-27

“Greed is good.” Nowadays you hear the phrase a lot. But more often than not, greed will get you into a lot of trouble and excessive greed will put you into jail.

In the story above, the Prophet Elisha had just told Naaman to dip himself into the Jordan seven times to be healed. He did and was healed. Naaman offered to pay for that service. Elisha refused. Now we see Gehazi looking to make a little cash on the side. Obviously it doesn't do us any good to question the wisdom of trying to put something over on a man who is very very close to God and prophesies with accuracy on God's behalf. Gehazi's greed gets the best of him, because not only was he greedy, but he tried to cover up his sin. The coverup in most instances is much worse than the sin.

Gehazi’s greed was obvious. Wikipedia defines greed as the “self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others.” It’s painful to see that definition because we can relate more than we care to admit.

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When to Rebel

Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. Romans 13:3-5

Yesterday’s devotions touched upon verse 1 and it generated some interesting discussion. I think we need to be very careful, though, in how we rebel against authority. Romans 13:1 states that existing authorities were established by God. That means George Bush, Barack Obama, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Ghadaffi were all established by God, like it or not. How they use (or abuse) authority is very different. If they make a law requiring you to do something that goes against God’s laws, then you are not obligated to do it.

A very real example is about ready to surface on the national scene. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) will nullify virtually all federal and state limitations on abortion (nullifying laws restricting government funding of abortion, nullifying laws prohibiting abortions in public hospitals, and nullifying laws requiring that girls and women seeking abortion receive certain information on matters such as fetal development and alternatives to abortion). President Obama has stated clearly that he will sign the bill into law.

Obviously, God-fearing men and women (and others) should really be bothered by such a law. It will require sacrifice as many may lose their jobs for refusing to perform these abortions in a hospital setting. Many will be ostracized for “not getting with the program.” Entire hospitals could shut down as a result. While there are clear instances when we should disobey those in authority, we must also realize that those actions may have dire consequences (fines, imprisonment, and even death).

Again, I call on my Brothers and Sisters in Christ to pray for those in authority by name.

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Those in Authority

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is not authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1

This is a verse that has endured a variety of interpretations over the years, especially the first half of the verse. Some have taken the extreme view that no matter what they do we should obey those who are over us (even if it violates our moral conscience). On its face, it would seem extreme but it's probably the normal interpretation of it. It's the view that until recently I held.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say it is morally right to violate what we know to be true. As a mild example, if a policeman tells you that it is okay just this one time to speed through the city, it doesn't make it right (try telling it to the judge). He was in authority and he said it was okay, but everything you knew about the speed limit laws told you that it was wrong.

I believe that there will be a time in the not too distant future (and I dearly hope I’m wrong) when those in authority will ask us to violate what we know to be right and true. We need to think about how we'll react in advance. Does the act violate Scripture? Does it violate our conscience? It may affect our jobs and our livelihood.

On the other hand, God is in complete control. Nothing, nothing, nothing that man does takes God by surprise. The Scripture continues by saying that the authorities are in place to do you good. Does it always work like that? No, but it's still a good model of how authority is supposed to work.

Pray for those in authority by name.

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Speak Up!

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8-9

This is not what most people think of when they see Proverbs 31. The bulk of this chapter deals with The Wife of Noble Character and it is why it is famous. When I read verse eight, it screams out at me regarding the Pro-Life issue and the Culture of Death we are forced to deal with in the United States. As the new President settles into office, many view him as the most Pro-Abortion President we’ve ever had, and for that alone he is to be feared. Nobody knows what he will do, though we have his voting history to draw upon.

As you read this, it is January 22nd, the day made infamous in 1973 by the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. President Obama has made it clear in his previous votes in the Illinois Senate and in the United States Senate that the unborn do not have the right to be defended (he voted against banning partial-birth abortion in 2007). In 2005-2008 he had a 100% rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League, and a 0% rating from the National Right to Life committee in 2006. He is certainly not a friend to “those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Lord Jesus, I pray today for the unborn, for those who cannot defend themselves. I don’t know how we’ve come to this place where we think that one who is forming inside a woman’s womb is a lump of tissue, but help us Lord to expose that dishonesty.

I pray against the radicals who think nothing of destroying these innocents and calling it a “choice.” Open their eyes, Lord, let them see the atrocities they are committing in the name of “choice.”

Open the eyes of the abortion doctors and help them to drop to their knees over what they’ve been doing to those who cannot defend themselves. You alone can help them to see the error of their ways. Open their eyes, Lord Jesus. Open their eyes.

Lord, this is an issue that defies logic and common sense, and goes deep down to our spiritual core, but millions are deceived and need their eyes opened. Only you can open their eyes, only you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Greed and Justice

By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down. Proverbs 29:4

It’s not an accident that we see leaders in the news who want to make a little extra cash on the side, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois comes to mind. Unfortunately, he’s not alone; he’s the one who got caught and it happened to be associated with the current President of the United States’ former Senate seat. You can see how it happens: millions of dollars in Federal, State, and local budgets. Why shouldn’t someone who makes a mere $150K per year want to take a little more on the side? No one gets hurt and the per capita “contribution” is mere dollars. But the Bible says it’s wrong and it tears down a country.

“Extreme,” you say? Consider this. What is it about America that keeps people coming every year? Before you answer, let me ask another question. If you’re on trial for a crime you did not commit in a South American country, for example, what is the likelihood that you will go free after your trial? You don’t know who has formally accused you. You don’t know what kind of money has changed hands to see that you’re incarcerated, and you don’t know if the judge is honest or corrupt. Of course I’m making a large generalization about an entire continent but due process is one of the hallmarks of people coming to the United States: you’re innocent until proven guilty.

But, as Scriptures tell us, that can change quickly. As people become more and more greedy, their quest for justice fades quickly. The verdict of a fair trial is up to the highest bidder. We see it in the U.S. and cringe at the consequences. Fortunately, it’s the exception and not the norm.

So, pray for those in authority by name. Pray for them regularly that they would be fair and impartial, and that they would not become greedy.

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True Justice

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that man gets justice. Proverbs 29:26

As I write this, hundreds of thousands are descending on Washington D.C. for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. It is not hard to imagine that many are straining for that one glimpse of the president. Others will get a chance to meet and greet the new president. Some will have their own agendas; others will just want to say that they met the President of the United States in person. Very few, however, will get more than a few minutes with the President.

After the inauguration and into the presidency, many will go to Washington so that they can have a few minutes with the most powerful leader of the free world.

What's interesting about this one obscure verse in the Book of Proverbs is that no one really needs to leave their homes to have an audience with One more powerful than the President (or any other ruler for that matter). We only need the confidence and trust that God is more powerful and more in control than a President, Prime Minister, or Benevolent Dictator could ever be.

We may not get justice we desire by going to rulers; we will get the justice we need, however, by going to God.

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Honest Prophets

Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.”

The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. 2 Kings 5:14-16

What a very different society we live in today! Today the so-called “prophet” would require the healed one to give a large gift because of the miraculous healing. I of course hold a very cynical view of the modern-day profiteers who think nothing of asking for money for a prayer cloth or a piece of jewelry that has been blessed by the “man (or woman) of God.”

For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers…they must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1:10-11

In the days we live in, Brothers and Sisters, we need to be extremely cautious in our associations.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7

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Wash Seven Times in the Jordan

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 2 Kings 5:8-14

This is the “meat” of the Naaman the Leper story. Go and wash seven times in the Jordan. Not five or six times, but seven. Very specific number and location.

The lesson today is short: what is God saying to you today? What is it on your heart that God is showing you that you need to do? Or perhaps the question is, what are you avoiding doing that you know you need to do? I’m not referring to a super-mystical experience as many might have these days. I’m talking about a plain ordinary nudge of the Holy Spirit to do (or not do) something. What is He revealing to you?

You’ll have much greater peace when you finally do it.

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Miscommunication Happens

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. I will send a letter to the king of Israel. So Naaman left, taking with him 10 talents of silver, 6000 shekels of gold and 10 sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.” As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” 2 Kings 5:4-7

We deal with miscommunication nearly every day of our lives. He said something that she didn't like but it wasn't exactly what he had said really. She had misinterpreted body language or tone, or perhaps the words didn't flow out of his mouth as fluently as it should have. Feelings get hurt and harsh words get said. 

E-mail is another form of communication that is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. We write things in ways that make formal typewritten letters seem archaic and old-fashioned. Or how about that e-mail that was sent before it was finished or even it was sent to the wrong recipient because the names were side by side in the address list. In fact, just before I wrote this, I rechecked an Sent e-mails because I happen to know two Franks and I wanted to be sure that the e-mail was sent to Frank1 because Frank2 might have been hurt if he had read what I had written about the organization we're all in together.

So here are a few practical tips we need to employ regularly when communicating with others:

  • Be sure you understand what is being discussed or asked of you.
  • Take your time in communicating your thoughts and ask for immediate feedback that what you had said was understood ("is that making sense to you?").
  • In e-mails write to be understood not to be cute.
  • Jokes are often misunderstood in e-mails. If you are ever in doubt about whether something will not be perceived as humorous, use the colon, right parenthesis for a smiley face :)  The alternative is to remove the questionable remarks completely.
  • Lastly, have a 3rd party bystander read your e-mail for clarity and tone. You'd be surprised what you're communicating through e-mails.
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