“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” – Isaiah 55:1
Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:15-27
Pagan religion taught that gods could be manipulated by humans. That’s almost certainly why Naaman brought so much wealth. Humans project that on to their non-existent deities. Even Christians tend to think that God must be moved by our contributions before he will do us good. God resists any attempt to change his grace into a commodity we can purchase. Grace, to be grace, must be free.
That’s why Elisha doesn’t make any reference to Naaman’s wealth when he sends his messenger to tell Naaman to go and wash. That’s why Elisha refuses a gift that was aroused by gratitude for God’s grace (v. 16). (Certainly, the school of the prophets could have used the funds!) And that is why Elisha is so disturbed by Gehazi extracting a gift by deceit (v. 26). It wasn’t just the deceit and greed, but the distortion of God’s grace. Gehazi is cursed with Naaman’s leprosy because he put a price on God’s mercy.
Reformed Christians will often respond to the freeness of God’s grace by saying, “But we must show thankfulness.” For some this is an attempt to smuggle in by the back door what we wouldn’t dare to bring in through the front door. That is, it is introducing works into our salvation. It can be an attempt to condition or qualify the freeness of God’s grace. Notice Elisha refused to receive Naaman’s thankfulness lest God’s grace be distorted. There is a cost to our salvation. But it isn’t one that we must pay. Christ has paid it all.
Suggestions for prayer
Praise God that it is by grace that we have been saved through faith and that even this faith is a gift of God. Pray that He would keep us from distorting His grace both to ourselves and to others.
Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017.