How Much Is Enough?
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26
We know God will take care of us, right? Sure we do! We may not have memorized the verse in Matthew 6:26, but we know the principle. God will provide for our needs and often gives us way beyond what we need. God often times simply provides for our needs through our paychecks and at other times He seems to cut it pretty close before He allows a miraculous provision to appear.
So, how do we handle the waiting? Do we trust the God of the universe to come through for us and just wonder how He’s going to do it? Or, do we give into worry? There’s a great story in the Bible that got me reflecting on these questions recently. In fact, she’s a pastor’s wife. Never heard of it? Well, let me remind you.
It all took place in the time of the prophet Elisha and is recorded in 2 Kings 4. This “wife of a man from the company of the prophets” (See, she was a pastor’s wife!) came in search of Elisha. She had a need and an urgent one at that. Her husband had died and his creditor’s had come calling for her to make good on his debts. Since she had nothing to pay off the loan with, the creditors had assured her that they would be back to get their payment in the form of her son’s labor. (Yes, back in the time of the Mosaic Law servitude was considered a legitimate form of debt repayment - even though it was often abused.)
We don’t know the age of the boys, but they must have been old enough to be worth a day’s wage and then some. The widow is stuck in a miserable situation. Obviously, no one wants to have their children be put into servitude, but on top of that how would she survive without her son's help? Nothing illegal was taking place, but no wonder she came panicked and asking Elisha for help!
What was Elisha’s response? He said “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” She replied that she had nothing other than “a little oil.” (I can’t help but think of the the story of the widow at Zarephath speaking to Elijah here!) So, Elisha comes up with a plan and gives her some instructions:
“Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.”
…and once you have done this…
“Go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons."
"Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
Without delay, the widow did what Elisha asked. As her sons brought the jars to her, she kept on pouring until the boys stopped bringing her jars. Then she said, “Bring me another one.” and her son replied, “There is not a jar left.” Wow! Guess what happens next?
The “oil stopped flowing” and the widow returned to give Elisha an update. (I have to wonder...was it enough? How many jars had they collected?) At her return, Elisha simply said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Wow! I wonder what the townspeople thought when this widow left her house and started selling oil from their jars? Did they ask questions when the jars were returned? I wonder what the creditors thought when she brought the full payment in cash? I bet she was the talk of the town, but then that doesn't really matter does it?
The real news to hear is how this widow handled her crisis. First, she recognized the need. Then she went to someone who could possibly help her – at least direct her in the ways of God. She apparently had great faith in this prophet of God because she simply obeyed. (Elisha says to get jars, so that’s what we’ll do boys!) Besides being obedient, she must have been humble as she also closed the door to her home as she’d been asked. This miracle was for her and her boys to witness. God’s grace and mercy poured out, literally, into their home and into their lives.
If I faced those circumstances in life and had to simply obey God (or his messenger), would I? Frankly, I'm not sure. I would hope so, but I'm afraid that my obedience would only be because of the grace of God in my life. Why? Because, my human nature would at least be begging me to ask “But, how many jars, Elisha?” “How far should we travel?” “Should they be big or little jars?” “What are you going to do with them anyway?"
How about you? Are you quick to take your needs to the One who can provide? Are you willing to do your part in the process – without question? Do you invite your children to see God’s hand of blessing in your family’s life? Or, are you tempted to ask for all the details before you take the next step of faith - and potentially miss out on God’s provisions?
May we each be encouraged by the life of this special pastor’s wife. God provided for her in miraculous ways, and He will provide for us too – as we trust Him with each and every need that comes our way.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34