The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


Buying Access to God’s Healing

Why does this business of healing have to be a business?

by Michael Danner

Old Testament Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-14

For Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012; Year B—Epiphany 6

When I read, or hear, a healing story, I tend to take the perspective of those who have not experienced healing. Don’t get me wrong, I can celebrate your healing with you in all faith, sincerity and joy! What I can’t do is stop thinking about what it means to those who haven’t been healed.

Here and Now

My questioning disposition not only pertains to supernatural healings, but also the healing that comes through traditional medicine.

When I celebrate your successful open heart surgery with you, and ponder the cost of such miraculous interventions, I can’t help but think of those without access to basic health care who die of preventable diseases. I find it troubling that we can’t do better. I wonder why money, power, privilege and politics have to play such a big part in healing!

Then and There

Imagine my surprise when I read, again, the story of Naaman. Yes, it’s a story of healing. But then, as now, it’s also a story of money, politics, power and privilege.

Part of the story is beautiful. It’s beautiful when Naaman confronts his own fear and pride by submitting to a humiliating cleansing ritual. I can picture the Commander of Aram’s Army, stripping off his armor. With every piece of armor goes a piece of Naaman’s pride. Then, naked before his subordinates, he dips down in the river – not once, or twice, or three times – but seven times.

I wonder if he thought of quitting after the third or fourth time when nothing had changed? I imagine the look of joy on his face when he came up the last time and was healed. God, through Elisha – Israel’s prophet – healed a Gentile military Commander.

Beautiful or Ugly?

Part of the story is ugly

Then I think of how Naaman tried to buy a cure with silver, gold, fine clothes and support from influential people. It reeks of access and privilege and inequity. I think about how Naaman’s healing wouldn’t have happened outside of the context of political power.

It is true; Elisha didn’t take a dime for the healing of Naaman. However, it was money, power and privilege that greased the machine that led Naaman to Elisha’s door step.

I wonder about…

…the man or woman or child who was in need of healing just like Naaman;

…the person that has no gold, silver or fine garments;

…the person that cannot gain a hearing from kings and rulers and power-brokers;

…the person that will never stand at Elisha’s door step as a result of who they know and who they know and who they know and so on.

Where is the hope in this story for them?

The Hardest Question

How does this story offer hope to those who can never get to Elisha’s doorstep the way Naaman did?

Michael Danner is an ordained pastor of the Mennonite Church USA. He serves as Lead Pastor at Metamora Mennonite Church, a rural community on the outskirts of the empire (easy to miss unless you live nearby). When he is not actively engaged in husbanding, fathering, pastoring and blogging he confesses to spending far too much time trying to move objects with his mind…a practice he picked up at church as a kid. To date, it has not worked…but he isn’t giving up. His blog can be found at  and he can be followed on Twitter @michaeldanner


  1. Isn’t the point exactly that God’s grace is not gained through privilege or power, but through submission? That is a truism for all people.

    I really don’t believe this story was included in the scripture to condemn power and privilege, but to demonstrate humanities utter dependence on the grace of God.

  2. I’m going to come at this Hebrew story with a Hebrew framework – that there isn’t just one reason why this story was included in the scriptures. So, I’m working out of how this story struck me this time, as I read it, not so much “What is the one right way to interpret this text” because I’m not sure there is one. There are many layers of meaning – one of which you hit upon.

    I think the power and wealth angle is actually more prominent as the rest of the story plays out beyond the borders of the lectionary. There is this matter of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, who runs after Naaman in order to get a little of Naaman’s money for himself. He ends up with some cash and new clothes AND a case of leprosy. If you track the flow of money/power and leprosy throughout the story, you will see the money/power is associated with unclean and grace/mercy is associated with being cleansed. There is, in my opinion, clearly an association between power and privilege, greed and leprosy in this text.

  3. Naarita says:

    What about the great reversal in this story? I take away that the powerful and priviledged in this story depend on the wisdom of the marginalized (the hebrew girl, the mistress, and the servants of Naaman). Could it be that simple curative directions that are free be more obvious to those that lack wealth and power. Focusing on healing, a difficult lesson for us living in industralized nations is learning from developing countries on how to live a healthier life style. Now I can identify with Naaman and the humility needed to dip in the water of the Jordan River. Would anyone want to trade Mayo for any community clinic in Haiti?

  4. Mike says:

    Great insights. Thank you.

  5. Chris Enstad says:

    The great reversal is the scandal: unlike every other part of our society, access to the healing power of faith in Christ requires no “thing”. It almost doesn’t require a pastor (but I would say it probably does require a preacher). The cultural wars that have been reignited over the past month all have to do with regulating access to a healing God that requires no regulation. So, to go with Mike’s original question: we bring the doorstep to them.

How do you read?