“Gehazi: Missing the Mark or Deliberate Transgression?”
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for obedience is shama. It means to listen or to hear with attention or interest. In Greek, the word used for obedience is hypakouō which also means to listen or to hearken. This Greek term is used in the context of listening for something, such as when there is a knock at the door (Revelation 3:20). Based on this context, biblical obedience is not a result of trying to “do” something but of listening to Someone. Romans 10:17 says, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Therefore, to hear “the Word” is to obey and thus it can be said that this obedience precedes and causes faith. Furthermore, we read in Romans 14:23: “…whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” This must mean that sin is the result of not listening to the Word. But how else is sin defined? What does the bible say?
Biblically there are at least twelve different words to define Sin; however, we can categorize sin into three basic concepts. These three concepts are expressed in Psalm 51: 2-3 as iniquity, sin, and transgression. Let’s consider each one separately, and then see how these concepts play out in the life of Gehazi.
The first category is “Iniquity.” The root meaning of iniquity is “to be bent.” Specifically, this refers to our spiritual condition rather than the actions we take. It represents our very core. Thus when David says in Psalm 51:5 that he was “shaped in iniquity” from his birth, he means that he was bent. Bent towards what, you say? Bent towards self. As a result of the fall, the Agape love that had been placed in Adam and Eve became bent towards self. The self-denying, self-sacrificing love with which their Creator endowed them was changed into the service of self. And this condition is what they bequeathed to their offspring. Therefore all men, including David, by their very nature are “bent” towards self service, of which the driving force is the love of self. Self-seeking comes naturally to all of us.
In Matthew7:22, 23 we find that acts motivated by self-love, even though done in the name of Christ, are exposed in the judgment, and clearly identified as works of iniquity. All Christians must consider this text seriously. If our works come from Christ, they are therefore motivated by Agape. But if our works originate from the self, they are the “fair shew in the flesh” works (Galatians 6:12). Are our works the evidence of Christ living in us doing the works of faith, or are they a product of a righteousness generated by self? This is especially noteworthy since the law of God requires even our motives to be pure (Matthew 5:20-22, 27-28).
The second category of sin is the word “Sin.” The actual meaning of this word is “missing the mark.” In its truest sense, sin is falling below the divine standard of God’s character, kind of like a singer singing off tune, or flat if you will, hitting just below the musical note.
Now, since all men are born bent to self-will, it is not difficult to see what the Apostle Paul means in Romans 3:10, 12 when he says: “there is none righteous, no not one, and none does good.” This condition of all men makes it impossible for any man avoid missing the mark. Even when he is a follower of God, trying to hit that mark, aiming directly at it, he cannot do it on his own. If he is not a follower of God, he will likely not even admit there is a mark.
In Isaiah 64:6 we discover thatbecause man by nature is bent to self, all that he does through his own efforts is like filthy rags to God. Without a Savior, man is doomed to consistently aim at the mark and yet fail to hit it (Romans 7:15-24).
While man does have free will to choose between accepting Christ’s righteousness or rejecting it, he does not have a choice with regard to being bent to sin. No man is innately righteous. Man is born a slave to sin and no matter how hard he wills or tries, he will fall short of the divine mark.
The third category is “Transgression.” This word means a deliberate violation of the moral law, or in other words, willful disobedience (see 1 John 3:4). This pre-supposes that one has the knowledge of the law prior to offending. Note the following:
- Galatians 3:19. The law was given to make sin into transgression.
- James 2:9. The law convinces us we are transgressors.
- Romans 3:20. Through the law we have the knowledge of sin.
Now Gehazi was a servant of Elisha the prophet. We can certainly say that Elisha knew the law of God because he was God’s mouthpiece, seeking to establish God’s principles of law in the hearts and minds of the Israelites. Did Gehazi know this? Certainly he did. Was he then familiar with the law of God? Absolutely! Therefore did he know it was wrong to covet? Certainly! Did he know it was wrong to lie? Definitely! Then what happened? Sister White says this of him:
Gehazi, Elisha's servant, had had opportunity during the years to develop the spirit of self-denial characterizing his master's lifework. It had been his privilege to become a noble standard-bearer in the army of the Lord. The best gifts of Heaven had long been within his reach; yet, turning from these, he had coveted instead the base alloy of worldly wealth. And now the hidden longings of his avaricious spirit led him to yield to an overmastering temptation (PK 251).
Gehazi had years of opportunity to develop the attitude of self-denial which would battle against his condition of being bent to sin. He was privileged to become a standard bearer. In contrast, he made internal choices which led to falling below the standard and missing the mark. The ‘hidden longings of his avaricious spirit’ sprang forth as it were, unbidden. This happened because he failed to heed the Spirit’s promptings to covet the best gift – Agape. (I Corinthians 12:31; 13:13). Brothers and sisters, a way of escape has been made by our divine lover, for the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him. Let Him “see the travail of His soul and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11,12).