2 Kings 5:1-19 (Part 3) – Wouldn’t You Like To Be In A Position To Turn Down A Million Dollars?

Posted: April 27, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 5:1-19 (Part 3 of 4)

The Healing of Naaman

First a funny story:

Robert had never been married and still lived at home with his elderly father.  His mother had passed away several years before.  Now that his father was sick and near death, he was the sole heir to inherit a fortune.  His father told him, “Robert, you’re going to be lonely living in this big house by yourself.  You need to go find yourself a wife to keep you company.”

So, he went to a singles bar, and spotted a woman whose beauty took his breath away.  He boldly walked up to her and said, “Right now, I’m just an ordinary man.  But a month or two from now, my father will pass away and I’ll inherit over 20 million dollars.”  The woman gladly went home with Robert and he introduced her to his father.

Four days later, she got married and became his stepmother.

Now an interesting perspective on wealth:

People living in North America, Europe, and high-income Asia-Pacific countries hold 90% of the world’s wealth.  If your household assets exceed $61,000 (home equity, cars, retirement, investments) then you are among the richest 10% in the world.  You’re in the top 1% of global wealth if your assets top $500,000.  Half of the earth’s adult population, 1.8 billion, has less than 1% of the world’s wealth.  (U.S. News & World Report, 12/18/06)

We are often obsessed with accumulating wealth even as American middle class citizens. Many of us mortgage away our future to have the latest and greatest things. We buy homes that are beautiful, modern, and have every convenience as much to create envy as it is to have the latest and greatest. Many of us buy cars with car payments that are the size of what house payments were twenty, thirty years ago. We often have two of these car payments. Kids having to have and wearing $200 sets of athletic or casual shoes. We idolize the rich athletes of the world. We idolize wealthy celebrities. We carry credit card balances on average in the $8k range. In many cases, credit card balances represent only a fraction of a household’s debt. U.S. households with any kind of debt held an average of $135,7683 in outstanding debt, which can include mortgages, student loan debt, and both transacting and revolving credit card balances.

It is a dizzying and maddening life cycle of living from paycheck to paycheck. We often are squeezed to the brink by our desire for the latest and greatest and the newest. Most of us live so close to or beyond our income that any hiccup in expenses or our income will throw us into disaster mode. We spend so much on ourselves in the present that most Americans have not planned well for our retirement. We spend so much on ourselves that we cannot be generous to others with the average American giving away only 2% of their income to any and all charities including their churches, if they attend one regularly at all. Money stress is often the cause of divorces. In a recent survey of divorced American, arguments about money and monetary priorities was the 2nd leading cause of divorce.

Sure, we should have concern about money. According to one statistic that I consistently found in research over the years is that 15% of all that Jesus said in the Bible was about money or obsession about it. How do we pay the light bill? The car needs repair. The mortgage is due. Gas prices keep rising. It was the same in Jesus’ day. There were taxes, both government and religious. Food had to be bought at the market. People had to have a place to live and clothes to wear. And people always like those extras – like a fancy dress or a bracelet from the caravan. Today, it’s SUVs and HDTVs. The late Richard Halverson, a chaplain of the U.S. Senate, in his book, Perspective, wrote, “Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because money is of first importance when it comes to a man’s real nature. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character.” Did Jesus spend so much time talking about money because having money was wrong?

Since many wealthy people – both in Jesus’ time (See Lk 8:3) and today – followed the Lord and did good things with their money, it seems that Jesus had other concerns with money. Concerns about human nature. Jesus’ messages about money seem less to do with “too much” than with “too little.” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is concerned with people having too little of what they really need. That meant health for the sick, welcome for outcasts, food for beggars, and protection for women and children. But Jesus’ concern also included those who had too little of what really matters – the Kingdom, seeking after God’s will for our lives and the lives of others.

And Jesus saw that money and wealth often cause a poverty of character, a lack of what really mattered. That is why – when the rich young man “went away sad, for he had many possessions”- Jesus said “it will be hard for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” It’s also why he told us to “give to the one who asks of you” (Mt 5:42) and that we would be judged by the measure, the generosity, by which we give (Mt 7:1). What we do with our money shows where our heart is.

In today’s passage, we see that Elisha refused a gift of money from Naaman and we must ask the question, why? Why did he refuse the gift of money? I read somewhere that about the current value of the gifts Naaman brought. The silver and gold at today’s prices would be worth $975,000. I don’t know how to value the clothes, but I am going to assume these were expensive clothes, made by a top Damascus designer worth $25,000. This meant Naaman brought $1,000,000 with him to pay for a cure for his skin disease.

What does Elisha’s refusal teach us?  With that question in mind, let’s read the passage once more, 2 Kings 5:1-19, now:

5 The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.[a]

2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”

4 So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. 5 “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold,[b] and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”

7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? Why is this man asking me to heal someone with leprosy? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”

8 But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir,[c] if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!

15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.

17 Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord. 18 However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.”

19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said. So Naaman started home again.

In this passage, we see that Elisha refused Naaman’s money to show that God’s favor cannot be purchased. Our money, like Naaman’s money, is useless when we face death. No matter how much wealth we accumulate in this life, it will evaporate when we stand before God, our Creator. It is not our bank accounts but our faith in Jesus Christ that will save us.

Elisha’s refusal of the financial gain was to demonstrate that God’s gifts to us is not contingent upon us paying for it or on performance. It is a perfect picture of salvation in Jesus Christ. We want to perform our way into heaven but there is no amount of money or effort that can erase our sin before the righteous Judge. We cannot earn it or buy it. It is a free gift from a loving God. All it takes is a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who arose from the dead. All it takes is faith that Jesus died for our sins.

Elisha’s refusal of the financial gain also demonstrates to us that we are not to be obsessed with money and things. God is not against us having wealth. Elisha’s refusal does not cry that out. God is against us become obsessed with and beholden to our wealth. And even the envy of wealth can be as damaging to us as having wealth itself. God demands that He be the priority in our lives. Anything less than that is idolatry. What do you think about most often? How am I going to make my car payment this month? How am I going make ends me? Do you think about money more than God? Is money or the lack thereof your God?

Elisha’s refusal of the financial gain also shows us that he lived his life in such a way that money was not a central factor in his life and I don’t mean that he was super wealthy. He was a wealthy man before walking away from it and beginning his ministry under the supervision of his mentor, Elijah. And sure, Elisha most likely needed money in his day just as we do today. However, his refusal demonstrates two things about a godly lifestyle that we can use. First, in order for money not to gain control of us, we must live below our income. Second, when money does not control us we can actually not be obsessed with it.

Many of the happiest and content Christians that I know are those who have made the decision not to pursue the American Dream (or Keeping Up with the Joneses). When we decide that contentment comes from living on less than you make, when we decide that the latest and greatest is tomorrow’s old and lousy (and decide that what I have is OK and enough), when we decide that we want to free up cash for generosity (and thus pay off debts instead of trading them for new ones), when we decide to honor God first with our money, then we can find that money no longer controls. When we live off 80% or less of what we make (10% for giving, 10% for savings), money no longer controls us. We can actually use our money for God’s glory through heartfelt generosity (rather than guilty compulsion to give). We can actually be of benefit to other with our money. We can actually help change the world for Jesus Christ with our money. We can even sometimes follow God’s call on our lives when we live simply and without the continuing and maddening cycle of debt.

God is not against us having money but He is against it becoming our God. Let us be like Elisha and analyze how we live in relationship to money. Let us be like Elisha where money is not an obsession that rules us. Let us be like Elisha and live in such a way that we can be ready to walk away from it all and follow God’s call on our lives because we have not let our finances rule us.

Let us be a people that learns to live on much less than we make so that we can be generous to the world around us (and see it as an act of thanksgiving toward a God who freely and generously gave us salvation through Jesus Christ). Let us be a people who are not beholden to the latest and greatest and the debt that goes with it. Let us be a people who can use our money to advance the Kingdom of God. Let us be a people that honors God by not letting money get in the way of our placing Him first in our lives.

Amen and Amen.

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