By Cath Gebers
Lectionary reading for 3/30/2022: Psalm 53; 2 Kings 4:1-7; Luke 9:10-17
Selected passage for reflection: 2 Kings 4:1-7
2 Kings 4:1-7 (The Message)
1 One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead. You well know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves.”
2 Elisha said, “I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Nothing,” she said. “Well, I do have a little oil.”
3-4 “Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.”
5-6 She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.”
He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.”
Then the oil stopped.
7 She went and told the story to the man of God. He said, “Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what’s left.”
I’ve always been intrigued by the “nameless” women in the bible. Their stories are told, often simplified as allegory or metaphor, and their personhood erased. And yet, let us not discount the very basic reality that each of these women have a story and it was told. Generation after generation passed orally, until it was finally written down. Their lives amplify the sacred through each retelling. And when we come to their stories, may we approach with an open mind and open heart to see their circumstances and how each choice, action, or inaction, gave a greater understanding of our God.
This nameless widow has been used to bolster the idea of “faith in action.” She must act in full confidence of God’s provision to see the miracle of the oil. Scholars and bible commentators alike point to this story as an example of what it looks like to faithfully follow even when the outcome is unseen and unknown. The widow’s complete trust in Elisha's instruction demonstrated the care of God to meet the needs of the people.
Yes. This is a decent understanding of the story. Yet, it also seems like a skimming of the surface. And maybe if we dig a little deeper there is even more beauty underneath.
When I first read this passage, I couldn’t help but think of all this woman must be experiencing. Her husband was a faithful man, known to be a person of God. She has lost him and now finds her family in debt and her sons’ lives threatened. This is not some meek and mild woman. She boldly approaches the prophet Elisha, tells her story, and demands help. Her faith is evident in the confidence she has: her life and the lives of her children matter. She knows God is one who sees her and calls out for the Lord to act.
The miracle that unfolds is not solely about her faithfulness to obey, but how the whole community participates in God’s provision. Her neighbors must give their bowls and jugs. The community’s response is the first miracle as the people of God rally to a member in need. Think of how their faith must grow when they hear the outcome of the story. All their containers are filled and God used their generosity to provide for the widow and her family.
In the end, she has more than enough. God not only met her present need, but her future livelihood through the excess of oil. This is a magnificent picture of God’s care for humanity. It is also a portrait of communal participation. We must all see the needs of those around us and act. God moves through the faithfulness of the neighbor: to see the widow and respond with faith!
Put yourself in the shoes of the widow: imagine the weight on your shoulders, the loss in your heart, and the hope you have for God to act.
Place yourself in the community: do you see the needs of those around you? What miracles might God be inviting you to participate in? Are your eyes open? Is your heart willing?
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, help us to see You clearly when the realities of life muck up our vision. Let us be open to the pains, yearnings, and needs of those around us. Give us faithfulness to respond and act out of a kind and generous heart, reflecting Yours. May our faith grow as we see You move in places of need. May we always see the other, for you are a God who sees and responds. Amen.
About the Author
Cath Gebers is an open and affirming pastor serving college students of Lincoln, NE. With a passion for justice and a heart bent towards equity, she also works for a local non-profit serving public schools and helping all students reach their full potential through mentoring. Cath adores her family, her pup, and a perfectly brewed cup of coffee.