Thomas Cosmades




By Thomas Cosmades


Elisha had a promising attendant, Gehazi by name (cf. II Kings 4:31; 5:25; 8:4, 5).  His assistance to the mighty prophet draws riveting attention. Nevertheless, a very disturbing incident overshadows his zealous behavior.  The marring disrepute may have thwarted him from inheriting the indomitable Elisha’s mantle.  Naaman, commander of the Syrian army, was afflicted with leprosy.  When he heard about the prophet from a Hebrew slave girl, he traveled with imposing gifts to seek healing.  Elisha’s hydropathic formula struck him as being extremely simplistic, stirring unbounded anger.  When his servants prudently reasoned with him, his fury calmed down.  Following the directions given by Elisha he dipped seven times into the Jordan River and was healed.  In gratefulness he returned to the prophet to offer the exorbitant gifts he had brought with him.  Elisha refused them.  Naaman confessed YAHWEH as the only God, and took with him two mules’ burden of earth, apparently to erect an altar to YAHWEH who had healed him. 

 Gehazi witnessed the whole procedure.  The temptation of greed came upon him with great force.  He ran after the commander with a shrewdly fabricated story and collected the gifts, more than what he had required.  By doing this he forestalled Naaman’s journey home in a totally exhilarated mood. When greed overrules common sense, the sirens of disaster scream.  At Gehazi’s return the prophet questioned his ambitious venture.  Gehazi lied; but Elisha through prophetic insight knew well what his attendant had been up to.  The greedy servant ended up contracting Naaman’s leprosy.  In sequel to this sad episode, he is mentioned only once (cf. II Kings 8:4, 5), which event perhaps chronologically preceded the cited happening.  Like so many covetous people Gehazi, too, was brought down by the demons of greed and corruption. Having pursued undeserved possessions, he glossed over his fraud by lying.

 Shady dealings have been going on in lands ravaged by the Tsunami calamity and other natural disasters.  Many unscrupulous people are pocketing large sums of humanitarian assistance meant for folks whose lives have been devastated. Miscreants are satisfying their insatiable greed to get rich, while profiting from the trauma of multitudes.  The unscrupulous avarice of the Turkish Red Crescent president along with some of his ignoble underlings in mishandling funds extended after the 1999 Marmara earthquake is remembered with revulsion.  Profiteering grows virulent in every area where compromise is the order of the day.  This is constantly causing pain to many who are informed about it.  Graspers are on alert to find a window of opportunity. “Thus says the Lord God: Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and go astray after their detestable things?” (Ezekiel 20:30; cf. Jeremiah 16:12). Even the surface of such mammoth malignity cannot be scratched in this brief treatise. 

 Corruption has taken on a universal dimension that has become one of the main morasses in governmental and NGOs, as well as business circles everywhere. An African leader said recently, “Corruption in our continent is as virulent as HIV.” The thrust to fight corruption is supposedly on the agenda of many governments.  Well said, well intended!  But the practice is evident among high- and low-level officials and free-wheeling individuals all over.  Those who can skillfully exercise their unsavory expertise are capable of working within gray areas.  Others go into it head-on.  Beyond doubt, there are numerous unnoticed cases of malfeasance besides those exposed.  Corruption with its diverse unprincipled practices is eating up the very fabric of societies.  “Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings…  Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter” (Psalm 106:39; Isaiah 59:14).

 Covetous Achan “…took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel” (Joshua 7:1b). The notorious Haman offered ten thousand talents of silver for the expense of exterminating the Jewish people (Esther 3:9).  Judas Iscariot offered to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:14-16).  The religious leaders offered a sum of money to the soldiers to spread the rumor that the disciples of Jesus stole his body (cf. Matthew 28:11-14).  Simon offered the apostles ample money to obtain the supernatural power which they enjoyed (cf. Acts 8:18, 19).  Giving and getting is the name of the game.  The New Testament says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (I Corinthians 4:7).  It should be understood that the reference is to equitable receiving from the Mighty Benefactor and not to any dishonorable gift.  What could the percentage be of those tinged with the virus of corruption against the uncorrupted ones – in spite of the strong incentives!  It behooves each one to examine him/herself lest the blatant virus in its subtle mode has invaded some territory, gaining a slick inroad.  Those unscrupulously corrupt and those too feeble to resist carry the same tainted heart.  The just prophet Jeremiah made the most erudite analysis two and a half millennia back: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9; cf. Psalm 14:3).

 Christ’s long list of repugnant trespasses emanating from man’s depraved heart provides a sobering insight to the direct or indirect bequest of corruption (cf. Mark 7:20-23).  The only sinless One lays bare these obvious involvements associated with corruption.  Paul deals with a grievous quandary very succinctly: “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22).  Again Isaiah discloses man’s overall waywardness (cf. Isaiah 1:6; 10:2; 5:23).  Before the flood the earth was corrupt (Genesis 6:5, 12).  The flood did not pave the road to holiness.  Jeremiah speaks of corruption that touches prophets, priests, and common folks (cf. Jeremiah 5:30, 31).  Micah’s observation regarding the obvious vice is astonishing (cf. 2:2; 3:11; 6:12; 7:2, 3).  Eliphaz touches the same chord (cf. Job 15:16).  The Lord Jesus Christ indicted the self-righteous religious leaders of corruption (cf. Mark 12:38-40; Matthew 23:27).  The distressing enumeration in Romans 1:29-32 encompasses man’s thorough decadence. 

 The seed of corruption is harbored in every heart.  The Scriptures display the basic elements of decadence in describing the shameful conduct of the two sons of Samuel: “They turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:3).  Each transgression was accompanied by lying, the chief companion of corruption.  What alertness and diligence are needed on the part of transformed lives into whose hearts and minds God’s law has been inscribed (cf. Hebrews 8:10; 10:16)!   This reveals the lacking element in the hearts of people involved in all sorts of unscrupulous conduct.

One definition of corruption in the Hebrew language implies wickedness and profanity.  At the present time corruption at every level shocks us with its tentacles stretching in every direction: politics, business with its conglomerates, corporations, price-fixing multi-nationals, various contractors, dealers in weaponry, etc.  Corruption in medicine, media, sports, education, the judiciary, military, religion and so on, blows the mind.  Not left out, the United Nations Organization also took its share in the chicanery. During a talk show in a highly industrialized country one of the panelists cried out, “There are parliamentarians giving five per cent of their time and energy to the task they were elected to do and then go on investing ninety-five per cent of their time to pursuing personal interests.” Other parliamentarians write inflated expense figures for personal advantage.  It exercises the soul to see that many professionals tip the scale in favor of gain for grandiose living rather than pursuing noteworthy conduct.  The stalwart prophet Amos, champion of justice, faithfully transmits God’s unrelenting message: “For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” (5:12).

 In the time of the Prophet, as now, corruption was at its apex.  This is how Amos, i.e., ‘burden bearer’, is indicting the heartless exploiters to whom corrupting their society made no difference as long as their pockets were full.  Every year fresh contrivances of unprincipled scoundrels are exposed: “They do not know how to do right,” says the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds” (3:10).  Amos knew well the helplessness of those who cared: “Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time” (5:13).  As the Koheleth puts it, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).  But Amos dared to speak caustically to miscreants before whom the rest were standing in awe (cf. Psalm 12:1).  The Psalmist reaches a point at which he questions the worth of having kept his heart clean.  He is deeply exercised: “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). However, his consternation does not disturb him for too long.  After remarking, “…it seems to me a wearisome task,” he voices the solution of his distress, “…until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.” (73:17).

The unjust, greedy and dauntless adventurer has rid him/herself of the thought of being swept away by the sands of time.  He/she belongs to the ‘now’ generation.  In the physical realm, corruption works its way to decomposition.  Let the person who allows the germ of decadence to take its course be careful!  Peter said to self-aggrandizing Simon, “Your silver perish with you!” (Acts 8:20).  The crisis of dishonoring timeless ethical principles is world-wide.  And yet, the actualization of adopting ethical axioms in family, society, business, politics, medicine, sports, education, religion, etc., is disavowed.  How to implement ethics into these and other spheres is talked about.  But is there any residue of allegiance to ethics in this presumptuous mindset? 

The post-modern, post-Christian person has jettisoned God, the Incarnate Christ, His unrivaled Word—guidance for life—and everything else having to do with divine guidelines.  As Christ alludes in one of His parables, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14b).  What are the remaining ethics, and which principles can be applied to the many areas of distressing events daily buffeting us? The passengers on the reeling ship who have rejected Christ’s reign over them are left without a captain in turbulent waters.  They’ve already lost their battle with corruption.   The extraordinary experience touching the chief tax-collector Zacchaeus is a case in point of how Christ is able to transform a corrupt life.  Being aware of his reproachful practices this physically short man ran to see Jesus.  He climbed up into a sycamore tree, visibly expressing his longing for transformation by Christ who was aware of Zacchaeus’ need of the divine touch.  Jesus offered to visit him, and then led this unscrupulous money-handler to joyous salvation.  He also put into his heart and mind the necessity for generous contribution and unrestrained restitution.  On that day Christ’s salvation came into the house. Zacchaeus was a transformed person (cf. Luke 19:1-10).  To obtain a commendable glimpse regarding the handling of funds entrusted to his confidence, study carefully Paul’s and his fellow-workers’ conduct in II Corinthians 8:16-24.  This scrupulous practice becomes a coherent structure in the area of custodianship.  “Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (I Corinthians 4:2).

The onslaught of corruption is evident on every front: “…children have come to birth and there is no strength to bring them forth” (Isaiah 37:3). The prophet’s agonizing cry is more pertinent today than it was twenty-six hundred years ago: “Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.  They do not defend the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them” (1:23). Such an indictment could appear in the lines of today’s newspapers, but few seem able to diagnose this crying malady of our time.  It is increasingly being replaced by some fresh innovation of decadence not unlike the heads of the legendary Hydra (cf. Isaiah 64:6).  Is mankind combating a lost cause?  Perhaps. Christ ought to be honored as the wellspring of sanctified wisdom (cf. I Corinthians 1:30).  This alone is God’s agenda for the application of justice and fairness.  The Scriptures refer to Christ’s reign—scorned by post-modernists—when “…He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:3b, 4).  Let everyone repulsed by injustice and corruption invite Christ into his/her dislodged lifestyle.  Seek his supreme reign which ushers in the clear perception of lasting integrity and purity (cf. Hebrews 10:39).  It could be that this detailed exposure touches some off-tune chord in a muddled course of life.  If so, allow Christ the Savior to take over, altering your abasement to extolment. 

Thomas Cosmades