“Gird Yourselves with Lowliness of Mind”
“All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 Pet. 5:5.
1. What qualities are Christians encouraged to develop? Why?
DO YOU know people who are proud, haughty, vain, egotistical, conceited? Most of us do. But how much more do we prefer to associate with individuals who are humble, lowly of mind, modest, meek, unassuming! In fact, the qualities of humility and lowliness of mind are qualities that all Christians are encouraged to develop. On one occasion Jesus knew that his disciples had been arguing among themselves as to who was greater, and he told them: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and minister of all.” Then he went on to show that there was no room for a man to be high-minded, pointing out that if they accepted childlike persons on the basis of his name it would be the same as accepting him as well as his Father Jehovah. So he certainly encouraged his disciples to be lowly of mind. (Mark 9:33-37) Years later Peter wrote: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind,” and he went on to explain why, saying, “because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Pet. 5:5) Not only, then, do we find lowliness of mind a desirable quality, but so does God, and he rewards such with undeserved kindness.
2. Why should we consider Second Kings, chapter five?
2 We want to have God’s approval, so we do well to give serious consideration to this matter of humility. Since the Bible says that the things written therein “were written for our instruction,” can we find an account in the Scriptures that will instruct us in humility? (Rom. 15:4) One worthy of consideration in this connection is found in Second Kings, chapter five. There we learn of an individual in ancient times who developed humility, and by reading and analyzing the account we can personally derive benefit as we each seek to gird ourselves with lowliness of mind.
NAAMAN LEARNS HUMILITY
3. What do we learn about the man Naaman?
3 In the tenth century B.C.E., Syria, which lay to the north of Israel, had an army chief named Naaman, who led the Syrians to victory. Unknown to Naaman at the time, it was Jehovah who by him had given salvation to Syria. Naaman “had become a great man before his lord and held in esteem, . . . and the man himself had proved to be a valiant, mighty man.” (2 Ki. 5:1) No doubt because of his position and his military exploits, Naaman was a proud man, but he had contracted leprosy. This loathsome disease did not bar him from holding the position of an army chief in Syria as it would have in Israel, but, in time, it served to humble and benefit him in a most unusual way.—Lev. 13:46.
4. How did the king of Syria come to learn about Elisha?
4 Syrian marauder bands had taken a little Israelite girl captive from the land of Israel, and this girl came to be a maidservant to the wife of Naaman. This girl (not named in the Bible) knew about the prophet of Jehovah named Elisha and the miracles that he had performed. She had faith in Elisha’s God, Jehovah, and bore witness to her faith. On one occasion when she was talking to Naaman’s wife, her mistress, she said: “If only my lord were before the prophet that is in Samaria! In that case he would recover him from his leprosy.” The witness of the Israelite girl in time reached the ears of the king of Syria.—2 Ki. 5:2-4.
5. How did Naaman come in contact with Elisha?
5 The Syrian king, evidently Ben-hadad II, wrote a letter to Jehoram, king of Israel, and sent his army chief Naaman about a hundred miles to deliver it. Along with Naaman he sent valuable gifts. Jehoram received the letter and read: “And now at the same time that this letter comes to you, here I do send to you Naaman my servant, that you may recover him from his leprosy.” Jehoram was dismayed at the letter and feared that the Syrian king was “seeking a quarrel” with him. Elisha, the prophet of the true God, got to hear of this and sent to King Jehoram, saying: “Let him [Naaman] come, please, to me that he may know that there exists a prophet in Israel.” Ah, at last Naaman was going to get personal attention from the man who the little Israelite girl said could cure him!—2 Ki. 5:5-8.
6. (a) What happened when Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house? (b) What was Elisha not trying to do, and in what was he interested?
6 “So Naaman came with his horses and his war chariots and stood at the entrance of the house of Elisha.” How would Elisha react with such a dignitary present? Would he make some special fuss over this celebrated army chief? The account continues: “However, Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying: ‘Going there, you must bathe seven times in the Jordan that your flesh may come back to you; and be clean.’” No, Elisha was not trying to curry favor with individuals of high rank. He was interested in having Jehovah’s continued favor and seeing to it that His will was accomplished.—2 Ki. 5:9, 10.
7. How did Naaman react to Elisha’s instructions?
7 Was Naaman pleased to learn how easy it was for him to get cured from his leprous condition? No; rather, the account continues by saying: “At this Naaman grew indignant and began to go away and say: ‘Here I had said to myself, “To me he will come out all the way and will certainly stand and call upon the name of Jehovah his God and move his hand to and fro over the place and actually give the leper recovery.” Are not the Abaʹnah and the Pharʹpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Can I not bathe in them and certainly be clean?’ With that he turned and went away in a rage.”—2 Ki. 5:11, 12.
8. What was Naaman’s pride causing him to lose sight of and that his servants helped him to consider?
8 It looked as if Naaman’s pride was going to prevent him from being cured. He was not pleased by the poor reception he received nor by such a simple remedy. It seemed as if he was more interested in some pomp and ceremony attached to the cure than in the actual cure itself. Pride was about to interfere with obedience to the instructions of God’s prophet. But Naaman’s servants helped him to get things in their proper perspective. They said: “Had it been a great thing that the prophet himself had spoken to you, would you not do it? How much more, then, since he said to you, ‘Bathe and be clean’?” (2 Ki. 5:13) They had the proper viewpoint. They appreciated that the main thing was for Naaman to be cured of his disease, and their conversation with their master had results.
9. What occurred when Naaman obeyed Elisha’s instructions?
9 “At that he went down and began to plunge into the Jordan seven times according to the word of the man of the true God.” Yes, he began to show lowliness of mind; he girded himself with humility and followed through on the recommended procedure. He went to the Jordan and plunged himself into the water, once, twice, on up to six times, but no cure. Then came the seventh plunge, and the result? “His flesh came back like the flesh of a little boy and he became clean.” He was cured!—2 Ki. 5:14.
10. (a) How did Naaman react on being cured? (b) Why did Elisha refuse Naaman’s offer of a gift?
10 But how much of a humbling effect did this have on Naaman? Would he now return home, proud of his cleansed condition but lacking appreciation for what had been done? The account goes on to show that he returned to the man of the true God, a distance of perhaps twenty-five miles or more, along with his horses and war chariots. This time Elisha appeared before him, and Naaman said: “Here, now, I certainly know that there is no God anywhere in the earth but in Israel.” What a confession of faith! Gratefully he offered Elisha a blessing gift. Elisha, however, was not interested in making profit from serving Jehovah, and so he said: “As Jehovah before whom I do stand is living, I will not accept it.” In spite of urging on the part of Naaman, Elisha “kept refusing” to accept any gift, for he realized that Jehovah was the Healer and he did not seek to profit from the office that Jehovah had given him.—2 Ki. 5:15, 16.
11, 12. Naaman now expressed concern about what? In what ways?
11 Finally Naaman said: “If not, please, let there be given to your servant some ground, the load of a pair of mules; because your servant will no more render up a burnt offering or a sacrifice to any other gods but to Jehovah.” Naaman humbly expressed his desire to worship Elisha’s God, but he wanted to do so on Israelite soil even though he had to return to the service of the king of Syria.—2 Ki. 5:17.
12 How lowly of mind Naaman had become, not concerned with putting on an outward show or being made prominent himself, but, rather, being interested in pleasing Jehovah, the one he now recognized as the true God! He went on to say to Elisha: “In this thing may Jehovah forgive your servant: When my lord comes into the house of Rimmon [the false god the king of Syria worshiped] to bow down there, and he is supporting himself upon my hand, and I have to bow down at the house of Rimmon, when I bow down at the house of Rimmon may Jehovah, please, forgive your servant in this respect.” No longer would Naaman be worshiping this idol Rimmon, but his bowing would be only mechanical on his part to facilitate his king’s bowing. Elisha believed that Naaman was sincere, and so he said to him, “Go in peace.”—2 Ki. 5:18, 19.
13. What did Naaman’s ‘girding himself with lowliness of mind’ result in for himself?
13 Is it not interesting to see how, in a relatively short time, Naaman learned to ‘gird himself with lowliness of mind’ and as a result came to be a worshiper of Jehovah and gained His favor and blessing? But during this same time, someone else was becoming self-centered, high-minded. Who was this?
GEHAZI MOVED BY GREED
14, 15. How did Gehazi show in what he was really interested?
14 Elisha had an attendant named Gehazi who was evidently present during Naaman’s discussion with Elisha. Gehazi saw matters differently than Elisha did. He is reported as saying, apparently to himself: “Here my master has spared Naaman this Syrian by not accepting from his hand what he brought. As Jehovah is living, I will run after him and take something from him.” Gehazi was interested in material gain, in profiting from the work of Jehovah’s spirit; so spiritual matters were not the all-important concern in his mind.—2 Ki. 5:20.
15 Naaman got off his chariot to meet Gehazi and inquired, “Is all well?” Gehazi answered, “All is well,” and then proceeded to lie to get what he was after. “My master himself has sent me, saying, ‘Look! Just now there have come to me two young men from the mountainous region of Ephraim from the sons of the prophets. Do give them, please, a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’” Gehazi lyingly involved his master Elisha and the sons of the prophets in his evil scheme.—2 Ki. 5:21, 22.
16. What occurred when Gehazi returned to Elisha?
16 Naaman still manifested the same generous spirit he had shown Elisha earlier and said, “Go on, take two talents.” Then Naaman “kept urging” Gehazi, and so this greedy man took the two talents of silver and the two changes of garments and proceeded to deposit them in his house. Then, empty-handed, Gehazi returned to Elisha. “Where did you come from, Gehazi?” Elisha inquired. Adding another lie to cover up the ones he told to Naaman, and lyingly to conceal the truth, Gehazi replied, “Your servant did not go anywhere at all.” But, of course, Jehovah knew what Gehazi had been up to and revealed the entire matter to Elisha. And so Elisha said to Gehazi: “Did not my heart itself go along just as the man turned to get down off his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to accept silver or to accept garments or olive groves or vineyards or sheep or cattle or menservants or maidservants?”—2 Ki. 5:23-26.
17. (a) Why was Elisha rightly disturbed? (b) What happened to Gehazi for his greed?
17 Can you imagine the horrified feeling that hit Gehazi? Why, his master knew exactly what he had done! Imagine too the righteous indignation that Elisha felt. Here he had served Jehovah’s interests in the curing of Naaman’s leprosy and had refused any financial reward for his part in this miracle. And now his servant, who was not directly involved, had gone and greedily taken something under false pretenses. Elisha, with Jehovah’s obvious backing, went on to say to Gehazi: “So the leprosy of Naaman will stick to you and your offspring to time indefinite.” And the account concludes by saying: “Immediately he went out from before him, a leper white as snow.”—2 Ki. 5:27.
ATTRIBUTES TO BE IMITATED OR AVOIDED
18. What can we review in connection with Second Kings, chapter five?
18 Look back on the account in Second Kings chapter five that we have just considered. We certainly note some outstanding characteristics and dispositions of different people. It will be most beneficial to us to review some of these differences.
19. (a) What admirable qualities did the little Israelite girl possess? (b) How can we manifest such characteristics?
19 Just think of the little Israelite girl. She was taken captive from Israel, but this did not weaken her faith in Jehovah nor in his ability to use one of his faithful servants through whom to perform miracles. Elisha had never cured any lepers in Israel, as Jesus later pointed out. (Luke 4:27) But this little girl had real faith. There was no question about it in her mind; she believed implicitly that if Naaman would go and ask, Jehovah would answer. Although just a maidservant, she had the courage to witness about her faith in Jehovah. She must have done this enthusiastically and convincingly to succeed in getting her message across so that it was acted upon, and not viewed merely as some childish notion. Like this humble, unnamed servant of God who set so outstanding an example of faith, we should fearlessly speak the truth so that all of honest heart can benefit. Never should we hold back from making known Jehovah and his purposes, fearing we are not qualified to speak to someone in a higher station in life than we. We should have full confidence in Jehovah and his ability to direct us.—Ps. 56:11.
20. How can we imitate Elisha?
20 Then there is Elisha. The Bible tells us quite a lot about this miracle-working servant of Jehovah. He was used by God even to raise someone from the dead. (2 Ki. 4:32-37) But his desire was not to be seen nor to become wealthy but, rather, to help people to grow in appreciation of Jehovah and his purposes. His interest was certainly not in making a name for himself but in magnifying the name of his God, Jehovah. We do well to imitate Elisha in being primarily concerned with Jehovah, putting our love for him first and helping others to call on him for salvation.—Matt. 22:37, 38; Rom. 10:13.
21, 22. What are some of the things Naaman had to do in humbling himself?
21 While Naaman was “a valiant, mighty man” prior to his encounter with Elisha, he learned to gird himself with lowliness of mind. He came to appreciate that he was just another person in the eyes of Jehovah, and not someone worthy of special honors or attention from His servants. What joy he must have felt when he came up out of the Jordan the seventh time to see his skin completely cleansed! How glad he was that he had humbled himself and followed the recommendation of Elisha given through a messenger!
22 Just think too what it must have taken for a man in his position to do what he did. He not only took the word of a little slave girl from an enemy nation; but he had to leave his own gods behind, perhaps thinking he would be risking their displeasure, and go to a country at enmity with his and ask a prophet of a strange God to do something for him. Naaman’s becoming humble meant something of greater worth to him than being cleansed of leprosy. What was that? It led him to become a worshiper of Jehovah, a man desiring to have the approval of the one true God. A fine reward indeed for his clothing himself with humility. As with Naaman, we too can profit immeasurably spiritually if we ‘wrap ourselves in the garment of humility’ and realize that God favors the humble.—1 Pet. 5:5, New English Bible.
23. Why can we profit from reviewing Gehazi’s course?
23 The other individual whose activities are brought to our attention in this 2 Ki chapter 5 of the Bible is someone whose example we do well not to copy. Gehazi had been serving with Elisha for some time and had ample opportunity to see how Jehovah was using Elisha and what a privilege he had in being with Elisha. But he came to desire material wealth. His greed got the better of him when he saw his master refuse all the silver and garments offered by Naaman. His desire became fertile and moved him to sin. (Jas. 1:14, 15) He schemed and conjured up a story so as to obtain some of the material things with which Naaman was returning home. He even went so far as to lie to his master, in effect lying to Jehovah, who had appointed Elisha. And what disastrous results came upon him, for he was smitten with leprosy! His greed cost him his health and the privilege he had enjoyed of serving with Elisha. We can profit from this illustration of the disastrous course of being greedy, self-idolizing. We learn that reaching out for personal gain from Jehovah’s service is a very dangerous thing and something we must avoid.—Compare John 12:4-6.
A PROPHETIC PARALLEL FOR TODAY
24. Whom can Elisha and Naaman be considered as picturing?
24 Elisha was an anointed servant of God. That is, he was specially appointed by Jehovah to do a certain work. So he can be used as a picture or prophetic type of the remaining ones of the bride of Christ yet on earth, the remnant of the 144,000 who will be united with Christ in the heavens. (Rev. 14:1-3) Mankind in general is in much the same position as Naaman was. Instead of being afflicted with leprosy, they are suffering from the death-dealing plague of sin, and in such a condition they, for the most part, fight against the remaining members of Christ’s bride yet on earth and those associated with them.—Rom. 5:12; Matt. 24:9.
25. How have the Naaman-like “great crowd” been helped?
25 However, through the giving of a Kingdom witness, such as that of the little Israelite maid of Naaman’s wife, many of these have been directed in the right way for healing from their diseased state, spiritually speaking. They have come into contact with the anointed Elisha class and have been told what Jehovah requires for them to be spiritually recovered and to gain a good conscience toward him. Just as was true in Naaman’s case, so too in the case of these people, faith and self-humbling were required. They have been encouraged and have obeyed and have the joy of being cleansed to an acceptable condition in God’s sight. They have now become part of the “great crowd” whose hope is to live forever in a righteous new system on a cleansed earth. (Rev. 7:9) Those of this “great crowd” have come to recognize that there is no God anywhere except among the witnesses of the true God, Jehovah. They appreciate that the spiritual healing is given free, in harmony with Jesus’ instructions.—Matt. 10:1, 8.
26. How are those viewed who, under a pretense of serving God, exploit others for personal gain?
26 The Elisha class do not desire to exploit the “great crowd” in assisting them to gain spiritual recovery from the plague of sin. They refuse any pay for assisting individuals to spiritual recovery, just as Elisha refused any gift, financial or material, from Naaman. They give of their time freely to assist others who want to study God’s Word. And if any associated with the congregation of God’s people on earth try to make material gain at the expense of the “great crowd,” such ones are exposed as being greedy, guilty of idolizing themselves. Such ones are removed from the organization, harmonizing with the treatment Elisha gave to Gehazi for his covetousness and greed. This conforms to the rule: “Neither fornicators, . . . nor greedy persons, . . . nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
27, 28. What can people do today in identifying themselves as part of the “great crowd”?
27 These who make up the “great crowd” that come into association with God’s anointed servants must also gird themselves with lowliness of mind. Today’s English Version of the Bible, at 1 Peter 5:5, says: “And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” An apron makes us think of someone doing serving, caring for the interests of others, preparing food for others. So putting on “the apron of humility” would then involve being humble, lowly of mind, interested in serving others.
28 Are you willing to ‘gird yourself with lowliness of mind,’ to “put on the apron of humility”? Are you willing to accept Jehovah’s way for salvation? In this twentieth century we have an example of humility, of lowliness of mind, that is found world wide. It is in the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses. Why not read on and see how they have humbly conformed to Jehovah’s way for salvation?
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By showing lowliness of mind the Syrian army chief Naaman was miraculously cured of leprosy
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Gehazi’s greed prompted him to try to profit from the work of Jehovah’s spirit and Naaman’s generosity. It cost Gehazi his health and his privilege of serving with Elisha