The Small Things We Refuse to Do

Naaman washing in the Jordan River. Courtesy of
Naaman washing in the Jordan River. Courtesy of


“If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” – 2 Kings 5:13 (NIV)

Sometimes as Christians we have it fixed in our minds to do “great things for God.”  We might willing to take on challenges at great personal risk and cost, to be “completely sold out” for the cause of Christ.  As ironic and counterintuitive as it might seem, it is in these instances that we need to step back, examine our motives and ask God for wisdom and discernment.  While we might be willing to do the “great” thing for God, are we willing to do the “small” things?

The scripture excerpt above is taken from the story of the healing of Naaman from leprosy found in 2 Kings 5:1-14.  The first verse tells us that, “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.”  Through a Hebrew slave girl in his household, Naaman learns of the prophet Elisha in Israel who may be able to cure his leprosy.  Tensions between Aram and Israel are running high.  Naaman approaches his king to open up diplomatic channels between Aram and Israel that will allow him to travel to Israel to approach Elisha for a healing.  The Aramean king grants Naaman’s request and sends a letter along with significant gifts to the king of Israel requesting Naaman’s healing.  The king of Israel thinks it is a trap and a provocation from the king of Aram and becomes distraught.  Elisha learns of the situation and advises the king of Israel to allow Naaman’s visit, so that Naaman will know “there is a prophet in Israel.”(verse 8).

Naaman and his entourage travel to Elisha’s home.  Elisha does not even come out to see Naaman, but rather sends a messenger to greet Naaman and provide him the instructions to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River and he will be healed.   At this instruction, Naaman became furious.  He excepted spiritual fireworks from Elisha calling on the name of God in perhaps the same manner that Elisha’s mentor, Elijah called on the name of God in his defeat of the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:30 – 39).  Once more, Naaman considers the Jordan River to be a mere muddy creek compared to the grand rivers of Aram.  Naaman’s servant maintained his composure and exercised wisdom.  He asks his master, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (verse 13).  Ultimately, Naaman heeds his servant’s advice and follows Elisha’s instruction and is cured of leprosy.

Contrasts Naaman’s attitude with that of the attitude of the centurion whose servant Jesus healed (Lk. 7:1-10, Mt. 8:5-13).  This centurion was a man of authority accustomed to commanding troops.  It was typical for a Roman centurion to command from 200 to 1,000 troops.  Yet as a man of authority, he recognized he was in the presence of an authority greater than he.  Unlike Naaman, he did not demand an audience with the man of God.  Rather, the centurion acknowledged his own unworthiness for such an audience and had faith that if Jesus would merely speak a word his servant would be healed.  Jesus heals the servant and commended the centurion for his great faith.

God seeks obedience in the small things, those not done in public that garner no attention or acclaim for us.  In our willingness to do the great things, we may unwittingly be drawing attention to ourselves and deflecting it from God.  God manifest his glory through the despised, weak and small things in this world so that “so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor. 1:29).

Let’s us not neglect the ministry of small things.  Let us not forget to offer a smile to stranger or a kind word to a neighbor.  “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mt. 6:4b).


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