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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Kings 4:42–44

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord. (NRSV)

So put yourself in the place of this guy, let’s call him Bob, from Baal-shalisha. Baal-shalisha Bob (or BB), is walking along the road with a sackful of bread and some ears of grain, not even ground into flour. There is a famine in the land, so BB is feeling pretty flush, and being basically a good guy, he goes to give some of his harvest to this man of God, Elisha.

And Elisha says, “Good. Go feed those people.” And there’s, like, a hundred people there. And he’s got a sack of bread and some raw ears of grain.

And the answer he gets is No. “How can I set this before a hundred people?” Even when he was coming to give it away, his first instinct is to grab it back.

“Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, they shall eat and have some left.” Or, in other words, “I didn’t say please, I said GO.” And to his credit, BB does as he is told. And they eat, and there’s some left.

It sure seems like there are a lot of poor people in the world, and it sure seems like there isn’t enough for them to get by. And maybe it’s the natural thing to do what BB did—hang onto what you’ve got because it’s not enough. But check out the world and look who’s holding and who’s needy. This January Oxfam reported that forty-two people held as much of the world’s wealth as the 3.7 billion people who make up the world’s poorest population. According to the New York Times, the top 1 percent in the United States holds more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

The first instinct is to grab back what we have, to plead insufficiency. God says “Feed the hungry.” We say “Don’t wanna.”

It would be nice if, just once, we’d try to measure up to Bob from Baal-shalisha and do what we’re told. There will be some left for us, after all.

God, don’t let us get away with pleading poverty. Keep your imperative before us, until we make caring for others our priority. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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