She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. (1 Kings 17:15).
We often look at life through the lens of scarcity. We worry that we won’t have enough. We cling to what we have. We accumulate things we don’t even need. Often, if we take the time to clean out the basement or the attic or the garage we discover things we forgot we even have. Sometimes, we can’t even remember where they came from in the first place.
In this week’s text, the prophet Elijah is repeatedly put in situations where scarcity seems to win. God directs him to these places. In each case, God also calls Elijah to trust that there will be enough and do what God is calling him to do. It would be easy for Elijah to be overwhelmed by the needs and simply give in to the temptation to go elsewhere and take matters into his own hands.
But Elijah doesn’t give in. Instead he does as God directs and in each case, God provides.
In the verse above, there is a woman and her son involved as well. They are down to their last meal. She is planning to go home, make one final meal, and then she and her son will simply have to starve to death. When Elijah comes and tells her that she has to share it with him, it must have seemed like a cruel joke. She must have thought, “Really? We have one meal left and someone else wants to eat it with us and maybe even instead of us?” But she does what Elijah directs and the jar of meal, almost empty, stays full enough for there always to be a next meal.
It is hard for us to trust that if we are generous, God will provide what we need to live and to give. In our time, the weight of the world’s message is that we are to be sure to take care of ourselves. I (Dave) am teaching a class in stewardship at Trinity Seminary in Columbus, OH this fall. Each Thursday afternoon I fly to Ohio, teach class in the evening, and fly back to be in Elgin on Friday mornings. As I meet with students in the course, there is a common theme: being too generous just seems nuts. They report that when family members find out that someone gives 10% or more of their money away, they simply look at them like they are crazy. Shouldn’t they be saving that money for retirement or something they need?
Trusting God, following Jesus and living in God’s economy is a tricky thing. But Elijah’s experience in this week’s lesson as well as the testimonies of many over the centuries tells us, generous living brings life and hope – not only to others but to us as well.