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Saturday, July 2, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Kings 5:1–14
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from a skin disease. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his skin disease.” So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, “Go, then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his skin disease.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his skin disease? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God and would wave his hand over the spot and cure the skin disease! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. (NRSV)
A soon-to-be ex-CEO who had sold his business and now possessed a mountain of money summoned me to lunch. He was white, mid-60s, and had spent his entire career focused on his own financial gain. Life as an imperial CEO was good; it included a corporate jet and subordinates who knew to jump high when he spoke.
At lunch, Mr. Ex-CEO said he wanted to finally “give back” but do so as part of the “right” charities and the “right” not-for-profit boards. Between bites of lobster salad and sips of Sauvignon Blanc, he intimated he wanted to maintain his life of power, entitlement, and privilege but to do it now for “good.”
I have no idea why he chose me, a lowly analyst at the time, to have this conversation. Maybe it was because he knew I was a minister’s son. Who knows? Who cares?
I see a similar story of entitlement, power, and pride playing out in the healing of Naaman.
The Naaman who rolls up in front of Elisha’s house, horses tossing their heads, chariots gleaming, boxes of silver and gold ready to buy a cure, is accustomed to bows of honor and unquestioning obedience. He assumes that what he needs, he receives.
But the ways of Israel’s God, our God, runs counter to this.
In Naaman’s story, divine power flows through humble channels—the Israeli servant girl; Elisha’s messenger; the house servants who persuade him to wash. They save Naaman, not his pomp and power.
Through the persuasion of these servants, Naaman is cured when he immerses himself seven times in the Jordan.
I must Google what has become of Mr. Ex-CEO.
Dear God, help me to be humble and kind, not privileged, entitled, and full of pride. Amen.
Written by Phil Calian, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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