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Refusing the Gift, Honoring God

Naaman, commander of the Syrian army, had a problem. He was a leper. All his power and triumphs on the battlefield could not cleanse him of this blot on his person. One day his household servant, a Jewish girl taken captive in war, suggested that Naaman go to Israel to see a man of God there who could cure him.

Naaman and his military entourage, loaded with a pile of treasure to pay for a miracle cure, traveled to Israel. They pulled up to the prophet Elisha’s door and requested a meeting. Without even opening the door, Elisha relayed instructions for Naaman to go to the River Jordan and dip in it seven times. Go dunk in a dirty river? Naaman thought the prophet would be like his own pagan quack and come out, wave a magic wand, say a few chants, collect some money and send Naaman on his way. Naaman was appalled by Elisha’s instruction, but his entourage reasoned with him. What’s so hard about plunging into the Jordan a few times?

Naaman goes ahead, dips in the Jordan River seven times and is healed by the power of Yahweh, the LORD. Even more miraculous, the cure goes beyond the surface skin cleansing and restores Naaman’s soul as well. The mighty Syrian commander professes faith in Yahweh, God of Israel and vows to worship him as the one true God. Naaman then reaches for his travel bank and offers Elisha a lavish reward. Elisha refuses the gifts.

Honoring God

Let me repeat. Elisha refuses Naaman’s gift of treasure.

Why? Couldn’t the wealth of Naaman help the prophet and fuel his ministry? Wouldn’t the offering of this foreigner honor the God of Israel?

What matters to Elisha is that the healing be recognized as the sole work of God. Only then would Naaman’s desire to give thanks be exclusively directed to Yahweh, not Elisha or any other man. Naaman’s faith is likewise a work of God. Both the healing of body and soul bring honor and glory exclusively to God.

The Lord healed Naaman. The message that Naaman and his cohort carried back to the Syrian people was that Yahweh alone is the source of life, healing, restoration, and is the proper object of faith.

Lessons for Today

  • When we give and receive gifts, do we have God in mind?
  • Is God the sole object of our thanksgiving, praise and worship?
  • Do we seek thanksgiving or approval (even praise) when we can accumulate money and lavish gifts on others?
  • Do we acknowledge that what we give to others is ultimately from God’s bounty?
  • Do we make our giving intentional and direct our gifts in a way that honors God, both in their impact on the lives of others and in the spirit of humility with which we give them?