By Galina Olivera-Celdran, PhD
Let’s be honest: all of us have been there. There comes a point in our lives when we think life is not fair. We think that God did not hold up to His part of the deal. We think that we have been faithful to God, we were doing the right thing but somehow it’s not working out. We get fired from our job for being honest. We get a lower grade on an exam just because we were not cheating.
We are not the only ones. David, the man after God’s heart, in the times of trouble doubted whether his attempts to live a righteous life were worthwhile at all, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning” (Psalm 73:13-14). Another story we find in 2 Kings 4:1-7. Here we find a widow coming to Elisha. Her husband was from the company of the prophets. After his death she found herself in a very hard place: with two mouths to feed and no husband to provide for the family. Deep in debt, with the creditor about to take her two boys as slaves, she finally comes to the man of God asking for help.
Asking for help is not easy. Asking for help means I cannot do it on my own. Asking for help means I am not as self-sufficient as I want to be or as I want others to see me. Asking for help means I have come to my wits end in my efforts to fix it myself. That was probably the case with this woman. She comes to Elisha when the situation gets hopeless – her two boys are about to be taken from her as slaves. God could have provided for her need in any possible way, but he chose to send her to borrow the empty jars from her neighbors, close her doors and then pour the oil she had into the jars she was able to gather.
I imagine myself being one of the neighbors of that lady and having her show up at my door asking for an empty jar. What would I think? Most probably, I would know about her financial difficulty. If I were a good person, I would ask if there was anything I could help her with. Empty jar? That sounds ridiculous to ask for if her sons are about to be sold into slavery! What are you going to do with it? If she gave me her story, I would not probably believe it. If I knew her credit history (probably doesn’t have the best credit score), I would be even thinking for a moment whether I would want to lend her anything, even if it was an empty jar. I can even imagine talking to another neighbor of mine who is sharing in a “could you believe it” tone that “poor lady next door was asking for an empty jar the other day, bless her heart!”
God definitely wants us to ask for help and involves other people in performing the miracle but He also reminds us that He is the only one that can meet all of our needs. Maybe, just maybe, that widow hoped she would get a little more from her neighbors than just empty jars. Maybe she even asked them for help before. But she was lucky to get what they gave to her – empty jars. And that would have been so sad if it had been the end of the story. But the story has a happy ending, because there was God who filled the empty jars. Sometimes I think that’s so true about my life – I turn to others for meeting my needs to be loved, accepted, understood, encouraged, but the only thing I get are empty jars. Most of the times it’s because that’s the only thing they have to share. God is the only one that can fill these empty jars to provide for our needs and bless others in return when we tell them about God’s work in our lives.
Finally, the story shows that God multiplies what we already have to provide for our needs. I am also imagining what was going through that widow’s mind when Elisha asked her, “How can I help you? Tell me what do you have in your house?” I would have probably thought, “Did not I just tell you? The creditor is about to take away my boys as slaves, would I allow that to happen if I had something worth selling?” So, she says, “Your servant has nothing there at all”. I imagine her pausing – she probably repeated it to herself so many times – “I have nothing here.” And who knows if that’s because all of a sudden it was not “here” but “there”, that she could step back and take a better perspective, or may be it was just something that she considered as included in “nothing.” Or may be that was her little security blanket that she was holding to – having a little something, afraid to say she had it so even that little wouldn’t be taken from her by the creditor. But she came up with a powerful statement, “except a little oil.” It’s a good lesson to learn – when there seems to be nothing left, there is also “except” and it may not be much, but “little” is enough.