God's Universal Health Care
A sermon based on 2 Kings 5:14-27
Sunday, October 25, 2015 - Pentecost 21B
It's that time again! Elections are coming up! Time for the primaries soon and then the debates. And as always, I'm sure a big topic of debate in these elections will be a national healthcare plan. Proponents of such a plan suggest that it is our duty to make health care free to all who need it. After all, they suggest, how can we watch a fellow human suffer because they cannot afford the medical attention they need? Opponents of such a plan suggest that it cannot really be free. Someone will have to pay for it. And those someones are the taxpayers. And besides, they say, do we really want the government making medical decisions for us?
Now, I don't want to debate the politics of a health care plan this morning. We can talk about that later, if you really want. But this morning we hear the account of a man who desperately needed health care. And though he had enough money to pay for the very best treatment available, he received free health care. In fact, he received treatment for an incurable disease. Another man thought that this situation was unacceptable. He ought to pay for the cure that he recieved! After all, he could afford it. The expense would hardly be missed. But God's health care is not for sale. It is completely free. And thankfully, it's universal. It wasn't just for this man, but it's for you and me too.
Listen now to a description of God's health care plan. See how much you need it. Rejoice that it is universal. And rejoice that it's completely free. Our text is found in 2 Kings 5:14-27...
14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant."
16 The prophet answered, "As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing." And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
17 "If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this."
19 "Go in peace," Elisha said.
After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, "My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him."
21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
22 "Everything is all right," Gehazi answered. "My master sent me to say, 'Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.' "
23 "By all means, take two talents," said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. 25 Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha.
"Where have you been, Gehazi?" Elisha asked.
"Your servant didn't go anywhere," Gehazi answered.
26 But Elisha said to him, "Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? 27 Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever." Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.
I. We Are Horribly Sick
Leprosy was a horrible disease. One doctor described what a leper looks like: "The whole appearance of the face is changed, till the man loses his human appearance... The nodules grow larger and larger. They ulcerate. From them there comes a foul discharge. The eyebrows fall out, the eyes become staring. The voice becomes hoarse and the victim wheezes because of the ulceration of the vocal chords. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of the disease is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimately death. The sufferer becomes utterly repulsive—both to himself and to others."
This was the disease that Naaman woke up with one day. His career was sure to be over. His life was sure to over! Nothing would be the same! And there was nothing he could do about it. But then a servant girl taken from a foreign land told him of her God and of the prophet who represented her God. "He could heal even leprosy," she said. It was worth a shot. Anything was worth a shot. So he traveled a long way to see this man of God. And Elishah, that man of God, told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times and be clean. Though skeptical at first, he was encouraged to give it a try. And when he did, it worked! He was healed! And "his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy." Pretty good health care, huh? Perfect healing and it didn't cost a thing!
But what's it have to do with us? We don't have leprosy. Well, maybe not physical leprosy, but but we sure are sick spiritually. Whether we want to admit it or not, we're too often like Gehazi in this health care account.
Gehazi's request seemed simple enough, didn't it? After all the man's life had just been saved, he was eager to pay for the treatment, and by the looks of the wealth he had, one talent of silver and a few new suits would hardly be missed! But how despicable Gehazi was. He was driven by greed. He wanted to set up his own homestead, with olive grove, vineyards, flocks and herds. And he wanted to have a few servants of his own instead of being a servant. And his greed led to lies and deceit, theft and cover-up, and finally to leprosy. Why such a harsh punishment? Because Gehazi robbed God of his glory. Gehazi sought to use the grace of God granted to another individual for his own material advantage. This was equivalent to making merchandise of God's grace. How despicable!
But... how despicable are we? We too have a Gehazi heart. Ever been tired of being the servant and cheated a customer behind the bosses back? Ever wanted material or monetary gain so badly that you compromised your faith and did something you knew to be wrong? Are you content with the blessings that God has given you? All the time? If not, it doesn't matter if you lie or cheat to get it. Your malcontent and coveting really say to God, "You have not blessed me sufficiently! Your salvation is not enough! I want more! And I will not be content until you give it to me!"
How sick we are with heart disease, since our hearts are not set on the things God desires, but on what we desire. We have the leprosy of sin that disfigures us before God that kills our very souls. And the results of this disease are much worse than the separation from loved ones and the pain and death that physical leprosy brought. Our sin brings about a separation from God and eternal torment and death in hell. How utterly repulsive we are in our sin—to ourselves and to others… to God. And much like it was for leprosy in Naaman's day, there is no cure for our disease of sin. None, that is, except one...
II. But God's Health Care Covers Us
God was the only one able to cure Naaman of his incurable disease. That's why Elisha wanted to make it very clear that he had had no part in Naaman's cure. The glory belonged to God alone. And it's the same way with our disease of sin. No medicine or drug, no doctor or surgery, no exercise or effort or work on our part could ever cure us of this disease. One sin, one act of rebellion, one moment of malcontent, leaves us infected with sin and doomed to die.
But God has the cure: In Jesus. Though he had no home of his own, no material possessions but what he had on his back, and relied solely on the charity of others for his food and shelter, Jesus remained perfectly content. He praised God for the good gifts that had been given him. And we only hear Jesus offer words of thanks, never words of complaint. He was never greedy for more, but always looked for what he could give. And that perfect contentment, Jesus credits to mankind. And then he took every complaint, every lie, every deceit and attempted cover-up and every sin on himself. He took the blame for every rebellion against God and he took the punishment that those sins deserve -- hell itself as he was forsaken by God on the cross.
And this, is the only cure for the disease of sin. But how do we know it's for us? After all, what's been called the universal health care plan isn't really universal. It's only for those in the United States It doesn't include citizens of other countries. They don't qualify. It's not really "universal."
Gehazi seemed to think that a miraculous healing like the one given to Naaman really belonged to citizens, only for Israelites, not for foreigners. You can hear it in his comment, can't you? "My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean..." But what comfort there is in the very fact that God's healing was for Naaman, "this Aramean." God's health care is not limited to any certain group of people. There's nothing that can disqualify anyone for coverage. It's not just for Democrats. It's not just for Republicans. It's not just for those who seem outwardly good or for those who belong to a church. It's not just for Jews, but even for us foreigners. God's health care truly is universal. It's for all people of all time all around the world. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." (John 3:16) Do you live in the world? Then you can be certain that you are qualified to receive it. The cure for sin, is for you.
But what will it really cost? That's what people have asked of our national health care plan for some time. It can't really be free. So who's going to pay for it? And surely a cure like this—one that saves you not just from physical death, but from spiritual death, a cure that gives you immortality in paradise for all of eternity—surely, it can't be free. Someone's got to pay for it.
Well, it's not free. It cost a great deal... for Jesus. He paid with his blood, with his life, with the hell he endured. It cost him a price too great for us to ever understand. But he paid it—in full! And it is completely free for you and me! It doesn't cost us a thing!
That's why Elisha told Naaman, "As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing." God's grace is free. That's why Gehazi faced such harsh consequences. He tried to sell the grace of God. (Incidentally, we're saved from our sin by the same means that Naaman was saved from his leprosey—plain ordinary water connected to the Word of God's promise.) Whether it's healing from leprosy or healing from sin, God's grace is always free! To Naaman and to you and to me!
Can you imagine the joy that Naaman felt at the healing he received! One minute he was doomed to die a slow, painful, lonely death, cut off from all that he loved. But the next he was completely healed and restored! He got his life back! No wonder he vowed to serve the true God and serve him only! No wonder he offered generous gifts to the man who was instrumental in bringing him that wonderful grace of God!
And no wonder we offer our thanks and our gifts to God! We've been saved from a fate that's much worse than leprosy. One minute we were doomed to die a slow, painful, lonely death for all of eternity in hell, cut off from God and his love. But the next we are completely healed, perfect and holy in God's sight. How much greater is our joy! How much greater is our gratitude to God.
And that gratitude moves us to offer our generous gifts to our Savior and to the support of the work of sharing the good news of God's grace with others free of charge! But all the more, our gratitude to God moves us to rid our hearts of all greed and malcontent and instead to find contentment, not with more money or property, but in our Savior and in what he's done. It moves us to live in thanks for him, for his health care plan—that covers all our sin, that's truly universal and covers even us, that's completely free. Serve him in thanks, with your gifts, and with your heart. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.