Lessons from Two Lepers

The pastor and health column.

Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is associate director, Health Ministries Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

From the time I was a young boy, one of my favorite stories in the Bible tells how God miraculously healed Naaman (2 King 5)—a classic story of God’s provision for unbeliev­ers. I find this chapter to have both a joyful section and a troubling one as well. Each of these sections powerfully illustrates two important principles of effective health ministry today.

First, the joyful section. Naaman visited all the best physicians and heal­ers in Syria but found no help. Through the witness of the Hebrew maid in his home, he learned of God’s prophet in Israel. The king of Syria readily agreed and wrote a letter of introduction. With a heart filled with new hope, he set off for Samaria with considerable wealth to be used to pay for his healing.

Finally, after a detour to visit the king of Israel, he arrived at the residence of the prophet Elisha. Rather than come out and meet Naaman, the prophet sent his servant to him with a very simple message. “ ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean’ ” (v. 10).1

Poor Naaman. He was expecting something entirely different. Angry and frustrated, he turned around and left Elisha’s house in a rage. After all, were not the rivers of Syria far nicer than the muddy Jordan? As he headed back home, some of his wiser servants reasoned with him. “ ‘If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?’ ” (v. 13). As his anger cooled, he turned toward the Jordan, jumped in, and dipped himself seven times “and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (v. 14).

A very grateful Naaman and his retinue of aides rushed back to the prophet’s home to offer him costly gifts in exchange for his healing. However, Elisha refused to accept any payment at all and wished him peace.

Many of us today are like the Naaman of old. We refuse the simple things God asks us to do, especially in the area of the prevention of many common diseases. We would rather spend small fortunes on pills, potions, syrups, and claimed cures rather than give up our health-destroying habits by adopting and using God’s simple, wholesome lifestyle of balanced living and eating—a way of life that is readily available around the world and is most economical and effective.

What healed Naaman? Did the special minerals that made the Jordan River muddy or the ritual of dipping seven times heal Naaman? No! It was “only through following the specific directions of the prophet that he could find healing. Willing obedience alone would bring the desired result.”2

Now the troubling section of the chapter. The prophet refused all pay­ment for what God had done. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, could not tolerate seeing Naaman return to Syria with all the wealth he had brought with him and was determined to profit from God’s miracle of healing. So, he ran after Naaman to get something for himself (vv. 20, 21). When Naaman saw him, he gladly stopped, thinking something must be wrong. But the greedy servant now lied to Naaman. Out of a grateful heart, Naaman offered Gehazi more than he asked for, plus two servants to transport it back to his home. After lying to Elisha about where he had been and what he had done, the prophet declared that Gehazi would become a leper, and indeed it was so.

Why, when people are desperate for help, does there always seems to be some who willingly take advantage of them? While we might expect this from the unsaved, we find it very troubling when this same behavior lives inside the church.

Today, the world is filled with greedy opportunists, and sadly there are Gehazis in the church as well. They seek to sell unproven health prod­ucts through multilevel marketing schemes: nutraceuticals, botanicals, cancer cures, equipment, and others. Rarely are these things inexpensive, but almost always the claims are fanciful.

“Solemn are the lessons taught by this experience of one to whom had been given high and holy privileges. The course of Gehazi was such as to place a stumbling block in the pathway of Naaman, upon whose mind had broken a wonderful light, and who was favorably disposed toward the service of the living God.”3

Our goal must be “not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33, KJV).


1 All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

2 Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1943), 249.

3 Ibid., 252.

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Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is associate director, Health Ministries Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

September 2013

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