INTEGRITY IN OUR WALK
Lord, truly You are the only God in all the earth.
Read 2 KINGS 5:15–27
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and 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 The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”
19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.
After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent[a] of silver and two sets of clothing.’”
23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.
25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
a 2 Kings 5:22 That is, about 75 pounds or about 34 kilograms
New International Version (NIV)
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“Do not conform to… this world, but be transformed… Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).
Our passage today challenges us to walk with integrity. A humbled and astonished Naaman testifies to Elisha that his God is the only God out there (15,17). Such exclusive commitment is surprising; in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, one could worship a new god without abandoning others. However, Naaman’s healing has led to a profound change which was (literally) more than skin-deep.
Naaman, however, has a problem. Giving gods their due in the ancient world was essential; refusing worship of the national god would be tantamount to undermining the structure of society, of being a rebel and not showing proper respect. The pressure for conformity in many cultures where religion is public far exceeds our individualized western context of private religion. Many international students I have encountered in the UK struggle with the expectation of ancestor worship. As Christians, could they bow down to the ancestors at the home altars? Elisha’s answer reflects great wisdom: “Go in peace” (19). In other words, let God’s peace guide you. It may be that someone needs to show a clear break with the past and such a courageous attitude may provoke an interest in God. For others, submission to parents may soften the ground in quiet ways and melt resistance. Let God allow what will advance his kingdom.
Another challenge is taking payment for God’s work. Normally, this is appropriate (e.g., 1 Kings 14:3; cf. 1 Cor. 9:3–14). However, Elisha here refuses, perhaps to emphasize that it is God, not humans, who heals (Lissa M. Wray Beal, 1 & 2 Kings, 335), or to show that God’s services are not for sale. Unlike Gehazi, motivated by greed, he is concerned for the overall witness to a Gentile. Whatever our challenges, we need to listen to the Lord’s prompting to show integrity.
Pray for yourself and others that we might show integrity in our walk with God.
Lord, as we minister to others in such a way as to advance Your kingdom, keep us free from the stain of covetousness.