60 Seconds of Pastoral Pondering
The 5th chapter of II Kings has a lot to say to those of us who minister on behalf of our God. It’s the story of King Aram’s trusted army commander Naaman, his leprosy, and his encounter with Elisha.
Through a series of events Naaman is sent to Israel’s king along with a letter from King Aram and accompanied by 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and ten suits of clothing. It’s a gift in exchange for a miracle.
Israel’s king apparently is all out of miracles and tears his clothes in frustration. But God had his man Elisha available and he took the call. As Naaman arrives with his entourage at Elisha’s home he isn’t even greeted by the prophet. Instead, the instructions for Naaman are given through a servant: “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River.”
He is rebuffed by this apparent snub and turns away in a rage. But his officers reasoned with him and he finally complied. As he came up the seventh time out of the water, his leprosy was completely healed.
Now the story gets interesting. He returns to Elisha healed and humbled and says, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” II Kings 5:15 New Living Translation
The gifts offered are sincere and significant. But watch Elisha’s next move! He has actually been offered two gifts, but he is only going to accept one of them. There’s the silver, gold and clothing but the man of God was more interested in the first gift. “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” is Naaman’s testimony.
And those words were worth more to Elisha than the tangible gifts offered. He turns down the ‘stuff.’
I look at that story and wonder how pure my motivation for ministry really is. On the surface it can look pretty legitimate, but what lurks under the surface? A bit of greed? A slice of avarice? A hidden hunger for a bit more?
I’ve often said, none of us entered the ministry for the money, so at least we started out with squeaky clean motives in that regard. But along the way, we find people willing to pay for what we offer. The sobering thing is that the ministry God entrusts us with is actually worth more than anyone could pay for it. And when someone is willing to try … that sets up a moment of truth for us.
A workman is worthy of his hire. You don’t muzzle the ox that treads the grain. Ministry is gainful employment. There is nothing wrong with getting paid for the weddings you conduct, the funerals you service and the counseling you offer. But the greatest gain we should seek should be that those we serve come to the conclusion that ‘there is no God in all the world’ like the One we represent.
God can pay me now or pay me later. I just don’t want an emphasis on ‘now’ to in any way diminish the ‘later.’
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” I Corinthians 2:9 New Living Translation