Published On: Mon, Apr 18th, 2016

What Naaman Didn’t Know

FillingupIn hushed private tones, the perception among some rich and powerful in the society is that religion is only good for the weak and unsuccessful.  Of course, some of them share their views in public, as an ex-governor of Minnesota did years ago.  His opinion: “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.”  As if that was not damning enough, a popular T.V. host also intimated in 2005 that “Christians and others who are religious suffer from a neurological disorder that stops them from thinking.”

Is such thinking muddled?  Certainly!  Just take a look at the Christian world and you will see men and women who carry themselves with poise, purpose, and grit.  The fact is there is no proof anywhere that equates peace and happiness in life with fortune or fame and to the teeming followers of Christ, peace, which passes all understanding, is found only in God.  The wise King Solomon, after unsuccessfully exploring what it takes to live a good life said in Proverbs 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich.  And he adds no sorrow to it.”

Whether Solomon’s diction is true or not, we will see it from the story of Naaman in the Fifth Chapter of the Second Book of Kings.  A highly successful and respected army commander of Aram in Syria, Naaman had leprosy, a dreaded disease that was demeaning him and threatening his legacy.  Fortunately, his young servant, a captive from Israel, suggested to his wife that a prophet of God in Israel could cure him of the disease.  Heeding this servant’s advice, Naaman, basking in his regality, journeyed to see the Prophet Elisha and the Scriptures say he went with his horses and chariots, stopping at the door of Elisha’s home.

Elisha, perhaps puzzled by all the fuss surrounding this sick man, decided not to meet Naaman himself, but sent a messenger to tell Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River to restore his flesh and be cleansed, but this simple instruction became Naaman’s Achilles heels.  Fuming, Naaman turned away and wondered what the prophet was up to.  “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 all the waters of Israel?  Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed,” he retorted.

But members of Naaman’s entourage were not enthused about his stance.  “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more, when he tells you, wash and be cleansed?” they pleaded.  At this stage, Naaman couldn’t ignore the voices of reason.  He did as the prophet told him; dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and his flesh was restored.  “Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God, stood before him and said; Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel, now therefore, please take a gift from your servant” (vs.15). Take a gift?  And the prophet’s answer: “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” 

Was Naaman in a state of denial at this point?  Absolutely.  His thinking was contrary to Scripture and must have considered this flaw a grave mistake.  What Naaman didn’t know is that because God gives a greater grace, He is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  Naaman didn’t know that grace is free and can’t be bought with silver and gold or power or position and nearly lost out because of pride.

The story of the rich, young ruler is much different.  Although, this young man considered himself financially endowed, there was something that he thought, was missing in his life.  So he ran to Jesus and asks Him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  When Jesus tells him to follow the Commandments, he gloats, thinking it is a slam dunk.  “All these, I have kept since I was a boy,” he replied.  But Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing.  Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.”  That, to the young man was a tough choice as he became sad and walked away.

Jesus was giving this young man an invitation for good life, asking him to get rid of all the stuff that burdens his mind, his objectionable habits and come with Him for the eternal life he needed, but the young man rejected the invitation.

When rich, powerful people choose to ignore God, it’s because they consider themselves above the fray.  But Jesus gives a warning in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.”

Naaman found himself among these flawed thinkers and nearly paid the price. The Scriptures say, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all things shall be added unto it” (Matthew 6:33).  When the whole world is under your feet, let Jesus Christ walk side by side with you and direct your path.  Among His many promises, “He rewards those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).