Speaking the Truth in Love

Better Left Undone

Naaman, commander of the Syrian army, was a leper. After hearing from a Hebrew captive in his household that a prophet in Samaria could cure leprosy, Naaman traveled to Israel and arrived at Elisha’s door. The man of God instructed the decorated general to “go and wash in the Jordan seven times” (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman initially took offense at the suggestion that his leprosy made him unclean and drove away in a rage. But when he humbled himself and obeyed, “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child” (v. 14).

Naaman was so thankful for the cleansing that he returned to Elisha’s house and urged him to receive the rich gifts sent from the Syrian king, but the prophet refused to take credit for what God had done. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was less scrupulous. He told himself, “My master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him, and get something from him” (2 Kings 5:20). When Gehazi overtook Naaman, he told the commander that Elisha had changed his mind. Two guests, both sons of the prophets he said, had just arrived unexpectedly. Could Naaman give gifts to these visitors? Gehazi did indeed “get something” from Naaman. He got two changes of fine clothing, two talents of silver – and Naaman’s leprosy as a punishment for dishonesty and greed.

Gehazi seems to have rationalized his sin this way: “Naaman planned to pay an enormous sum for a cure. Would it be so wrong if I took just a small percentage of that money? He’s rich. He’ll never miss it.”

We sometimes rationalize our own sins, don’t we? When I do right, my conscience is generally quiet and clear. But if I have to argue with myself, convince myself, the thing I’m planning to do may be better left undone.

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