The story of Naaman was always one of my favorites to teach to children. It is a Bible story that teaches absolute obedience, even when, and maybe even especially when, we do not understand.
As many of you know, Naaman was captain of the army and was a very valiant warrior. But, Naaman was a leper. When a little servan girl, who had been taken in a siege against Israel told Naaman's wife about the prophet, Elisha and that he could surely cure him, then Naaman had to see him. Interestingly, human trafficking was going on back then, eh? Also interesting that the little girl was able to be used in an amazing way during her captivity. This speaks volumes for the "bloom where you are planted" philosophy, doesn't it?
Naaman sent a letter to the king of Israel to ask for his healing from the prophet. Elisha's words were a puzzle to Naaman however. The prophet told him to go dip in the river Jordan seven times. Now, please realize that the Jordan river was known to be filthy, and humanly speaking, made no sense whatsoever. Naaman became so furious, as he thought the prophet would come with pomp and circumstance to "call on the name of the Lord and wave his hand over him and cure him of the disease." Not happening! It made no sense to him.
He also declared that it made more sense to go and dip in a clean river. The prophet told him to do something that made no sense, and if he did it however, he would be cured of the leprosy. Naaman was enraged.
Isn't that the way we are at times? So many times in our lives, the task at hand makes no sense. We find a better way, devise another plan, only to be brought back to the right road. And, I'm happy to say that Naaman did the right thing. He went after some coercing from his own servants (don't be surprised at whom the Lord uses in your life to speak truth to you. I mean, God made a donkey talk in one story to get a man to listen). When Naaman dipped, he was made clean.
He offered gifts to the prophet for his healing. But, Elisha and his men would hear nothing of it, after all, they were doing the work of God. However, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha became indigent. Seriously? Elisha heals him and he will not take some sort of pay ... nothing?
Gehazi became greedy and decided to take things into his own hands. I am sure his reasoning was that a gift is little compared to the healing. It's when our human reasoning takes precedence over the word, that gets us into trouble.
Naaman was happy to oblige and he gave to him gifts and Gehazi slithered back to his prophet. Now, when you work for a prophet, you should know that lying to him is simply not going to fly, so to speak. When asked where he'd been, the silly man lied. Ugh. He became greedy, which led to smoozing back to Naaman and taking what was not rightfully his, and then he lied on top of that. Elisha knew and declared, "Did not my heart go with you?" So, the leprosy of Naaman, the former leper became the leprosy of Gehazi the greedy, and not only him, but his family forever. It is a story mixed with emotion and twists. It could have been a happy ending, but Gehazi became greedy.
Greed is so much like a leprosy. It eats away at a person. Greed destroys people, but the affects of greed are felt beyond the person and felt for generations, at times.
Because so much of my life has dealt with grief and the dying through the hospice work, and since I was a young woman, I have worked with the dying and the grieving, I have seen with horror the leprosy of greed. Now, for years, I rationalized that the greed I was observing was due to heavy grief. And, so often it is true.
Grief is usually not something anyone wants to walk through, so they divert their attention in a million various ways. Some, just "get busy" so they won't have time to think. Others become angry and divert their anger toward family members or God. I think one of the saddest reactions, however, to grief is greed. Greed doesn't have to come by way of grief, but so often it does. We've all seen the "vulture effect." You know, someone is getting older or is ill, and all of the sudden, people who never did before take interest in them. Again, I formerly thought is was just an aversion to grief, and once in awhile, I believe that to be true. However, as I become older, I see that greed is simply greed and for no other reason, but to "get."
There is a true story of an old woman who lived a lonely life. She had three children, but they were busy with their own lives, and didn't have time for their elderly mother. She missed her little brood and decided to do whatever she could to see them. She devised a plan. She purchased a fine chest made of beautiful wood and accented with expensive looking gold. She spent all her money on it. She slid it under her table in the kitchen so that when anyone sat down, they bumped it with their foot and curiosity would result.
One day, one of children stopped in quickly and she urged them to sit and have tea. Because she would not stop with the urging, they reluctantly sat down looking at their watch. All of the sudden, their foot bumped the treasure chest. Curious, he leaned over and with eyebrows raised, asked softly, "What is this, mother dear?" She smiled demurely and declared, "Oh, that's my treasure." Becoming more comfortable in the chair he sat and positioned himself for awhile. By evening, the other siblings had heard of the "chest with the unknown treasure" and began visiting regularly.
Every Sunday, the old woman enjoyed all three grown children as they laughed and reminisced with her about their childhood. They told her of their work and lives, and she was so happy to see them again. She smiled and smiled. Soon, the old woman slipped away quietly into the next life with her three children by her bed. A smile was spread across her face and she died looking adoringly at them. After her funeral, the three children hastened to the chest that had their curiosity for so very long. Opening it, they found baby clothes and trinkets from their childhood and a note from their mother. The note read simply: "you three children were my only treasure. I am sorry I deceived you by allowing you to think I had money or riches, but I had missed you so, and this was the only way I knew of to enjoy your company in my last days. I love you, my treasures. Love, Mother." Tears formed in their eyes as they were filled with regret and the thoughts of their greed. They all determined to live their lives as their mother did treasuring people instead of money or objects.
It has been said to "use things not people, and to enjoy people not things." Greed is a monster. It will take over your life and steal it away from you if you seek that which is not yours. Greed is making a god out of money, stuff, people, objects. The real problem with greed is in the getting as it is insatiable. There is always something else to want or get. Just as Gehazi discovered greed can lead to leprosy, we need to realize that greed can lead to leprosy. Oh, our skin may not peel away, but our lives will. Lives consumed with greed are lives consumed as a cancer or leprosy.
So, how do we avoid greed and avert the leprosy associated with it? One of my favorite methods of counseling is from the Bible: "Put off the old man and put on the new man." In essence, put off something bad and put on something good to replace. So, with greed, we put off the "taking" and put on "giving."
You may not have riches or stuff, but you have time. Put off the devising and scheming to take, and put on giving. Not only is it God's way, but it also is the way to a happy life. There are givers and takers in this world. Determine to be a giver, make people your priority, and love like you are dying. We've all heard the cliche' of "you can't take it with you," or "you've never seen a hearse pulling a U-haul." True story. Do not be like Gehazi, desiring what you should not have.
This is my prayer and you may want to make it yours: "Lord, make my life count for you. Help me to love people and not things. Use me for your glory and love the people you place in my life or path. Help me to never use people, but rather love them through me. When I die, may people say, 'I saw and felt Jesus in her.'"
(Kimberly Morgan, MA, is a wife and mom in Elkins. She is a counselor in Elkins at Cornerstone Counseling. Reach her at 304-637-1109.)