THERE IS NO UNIMPORTANT PERSON
II Kings 5 : 1 – 14
There is no unimportant person in the eyes of God. This is why God”s choice of the agent can be very interesting. Who would ever have expected, for example, that an unmarried teenage girl from a small village would be chosen as Mother of Jesus Christ? The story of healing of Naaman is another example. People who played the most important roles in this story were slaves, two of them not even mentioned by name. Supposedly important people like kings, prophets, and generals play very small roles.
Let us recall the story: Naaman was a general of the mighty Syrian Empire. Compared to Syria, Israel was a small and weak kingdom. Naaman was a formidable figure as the head of the Armed Forces of such an superpower. Everybody was afraid of him. He was rich, too.
The only problem was that Naaman had leprosy, that debilitating, ugly flesh eating disease. All his military might and all his wealth could do nothing to resolve this fatal problem. There are many rich and powerful people with fatal problems, both physical and spiritual. It must be frustrating. All their lives, they work so hard to attain what everybody envies. But often, they can do nothing to be rid of the one fatal flaw in their lives.
The only person who could suggest a solution was a slave girl, whom Naaman captured in Israel, a lowly servant of his wife. The Bible does not even mention her name. Probably many people did not know her name. She was just, "Hey, you." to many people in Naaman”s household. But she knew about a famous prophet in Israel, who cured many diseases. His name was Elisha and was Naaman”s only hope.
Naaman swallowed his pride and asked permission of the king to go to Israel. The Syrian king willingly wrote a letter to the king of Israel and said, "You may cure him of his disease." perhaps. There was an arrogant tone of this letter, what could the little country of Israel have that the mighty Syrian kingdom did not? Naaman did not spare any expense for his journey. He went to impress. He took 7 of his dress uniforms. Talk about dress for success. And tons of gold and silver for possible payment.
We always have had a strange tendency to think that money can solve any problem.
When the king of Israel read the letter from the king of Syria, he knew he was doomed. He tore his clothes in despair. Such an impossible demand from a mighty empire. "I am not a god, I can not cure leprosy. It must be a trick to create an excuse to start a war." The Prophet Elisha heard of the king”s distress, and sent a messenger directing the general to come to him.
When Naaman came to the prophet”s house with pomp and ceremony, horses and chariots, and his whole entourage, Elisha did not even bother to come out to greet this mighty general. He simply sent out one slave to tell the general to wash himself seven times in the river. Naaman was enraged. "Who does he think he is, to talk to me like that? I am a General of the mighty Syrian Empire. Wash myself seven times! I let my slaves to do that for me. He hasn”t even bothered to come out to greet me. He should have come out in his ceremonial best and invoked the Almighty God in a most solemn liturgy, so that this special client can receive God”s very special favour."
He was so angry that he was ready to go home and send in the army. When you think that you are somebody, humiliation is one of the most difficult things to bear. Pride blinds you to see the reality about yourself. An excessive sense of self importance often is a sign of z lack of genuine self-confidence. It comes from insecurity, which forces you to cover yourself with pretence. Truly confident persons do not need pomp and circumstance to claim their places. They know who they are, no matter whether others recognize them or not. It is like the difference between a Chiwawa who yaps all the time and a Great Dane who doesn”t need to. God sees for who we are, not who we want to appear to be.
Because of his bloated sense of self importance, Naaman could not follow the most obvious course of action. It was another nameless slave who brought him to senses. "Master, what is wrong with washing yourself in a river. Such a simple thing to do. It can do no harm." It was common sense. Really what could Naaman lose? Such common sense overcame the barrier of Naaman”s ego. So Naaman washed himself seven times in the river and his leprosy was cured.
He was so grateful that he offered a fortune for payment. But Elisha would not accept it. The cure was a gift from God. Naaman should just thank God for his kindness. Naaman was now truly impressed. He promised to give offerings to the god of Israel regularly. He took with him two mule-loads of dirt from Israel as souvenir of this memorable experience.
But there was a man in the Prophet”s household whose name was Gehazi. He felt that such a wealthy man like Naaman should not get such a lucky break free. There is no free lunch so he should pay. Everybody must pay. That”s justice. Gehazi thought nobody is interested in collecting the fee, then why not me. So he went after Naaman”s entourage and said that the prophet had a second thought and ask for payment for the service rendered. It was a modest charge, some silver and clothes. No problem. Naaman paid the double of the amount requested. But when the prophet Elisha heard about this, he cursed Gehazi with the leprosy left behind by Naaman. It is interesting. Isn”t it? This swindler who defrauded God, Elisha, and Naaman is remembered in the Bible by his name, while other slaves who did good were not. I wonder why.
So what are the lessons we can learn from this story? I am sure that there are many. But I would like to pick up three:
1. In God”s eyes, there are no unimportant persons. Everybody is equally important. God”s work can be performed by a person whom society does not think very much of. Some people who perform even mighty works for God are not necessarily remembered by their names. Many workers who built the great wall of China or Pyramid are not even mentioned in history books. A king”s order is not enough to make such a structure reality. And what about the voyageurs who opened up Canada for European settlers? I don”t think any of them are remembered by name.
2. Because in the eyes of God there is no difference between important persons and unimportant persons, those who are considered to be important by society are forced to learn humility. Wealth and status do not play any roles in matters of spiritual importance. Rich and famous people often do not understand that peace of mind can not be bought. It is humiliating to discover that what you treasure so much is worthless in the spiritual world.
3. Lastly, it surprises us often to discover that the most important things in life come free of charge. In fact, the most essential elements of our life are so precious that you can not buy them. How can you measure affection, care, love, security, tenderness, warmth? As soon as you begin to quantify them in terms of money and property, you degrade them and make them cheap. You can only accept them as gifts and be grateful.
This is a lesson in humility for us all. To learn how to receive and how to live out our thanks. We can never repay God for all that he does for us.