There once lived a woman in a village of Israel. This woman’s husband—the son of a prophet—had recently passed away, leaving her with mountains of debt and two young sons who were too young to care for her. Adding to the dilemma, her family’s creditors had come to collect—and had threatened to take the widow’s two sons be his slaves in lieu of payment. She had no money to pay back her husband’s debts, and the weight of social stigma was a heavy burden. The woman knew she had only one hope in this situation—God himself. So she turned for help to Elisha, a prophet and a man of God.
And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” (2 Kings 4:2-7)
What’s in Your Cupboard?
Elisha was able to see the bigger picture of God’s providence in this drama. Though she did not yet know it, God had equipped her with a solution of which she was completely unaware: a few drops of oil.
This story speaks to us when we pass through those waters of hard times because it reminds us that God has always and will always meet our needs. The widow’s oil represents our reservoir of faith in times of our darkest troubles. God promises to recognize our faith, use it for his glory, and multiply it for our benefit. Jesus tells us even faith like a grain of mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). The widow might not have seen God’s provision before connecting with Elisha, but she did have the faith to run to God first.
Jars, Jars, and More Jars
Once Elisha made the widow aware of her God-given resources, her few drops of oil, Elisha commanded her to go into her neighborhood and borrow empty jars, “and not too few.” The woman complied and sent her sons to gather vessels from the surrounding community. Consequently, both boys as well as the community were invited to take part of God’s rescue plan. By God’s design, the solution was in community, not isolation.
When God comes first, structuring our lives is easier. The widow’s life was clearly not easy—but her faith in God carried her through trouble. God extends to us a promise: “Give me everything you have. I will give you everything you need.” Giving expresses faith that God can and does provide for his people superabundantly. Giving is one way we can conform our simple lives to his plans. When we faithfully entwine God’s pattern for giving into our lives, we can be certain he is transforming us more closely to his image. So what’s in your cupboard? How has God already prepared you to go and give?
Lessons for Today
- When you are in need, do you run to man-made solutions, or to the Lord first?
- What’s in your cupboard? How has God already prepared you to go and give?
- Has the Lord placed a person in need in your path? Is he inviting you to lend a jar to a neighbor in need?