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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Kings 17:8–16

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. (NRSV)

Time after time we read this story in the Bible, about one of God’s messengers either saying, “Give me some food” or “Give others some food” and getting the answer “No, there’s not enough.” The messengers then say, in those immortal words, “Just do it.” And lo and behold, there is enough. There’s more than enough.

We like to pretend that life is a zero-sum game. We pretend that if we’re going to put food in a needy person’s mouth we’ll wind up taking it out of our own. Whole political ideologies grow up around that idea—that needy people will only take the food out of your family’s mouth, that if sick people can easily get health care, that will mean you and your family won’t be able to, that the poor are somehow bankrupting society.

It’s a lie.

We have enough. The problem is not in our giving; it is in our hoarding. We prize hoarding, we honor hoarding, we reward hoarding. You may say, “No, we don’t think that way; we don’t believe that,” but look at what we do. We say we hear the word of God, but when it comes to this directive, to feed the hungry, our society gets strangely deaf. The truth is out there; there are multitudes of charts showing the small sliver of our wealth that we dedicate to helping those in need. And still we hear that these people are dragging the rest of us down.

God says, “Help people.” We say, “Don’t wanna.” And we make up excuses.

The woman in today’s text doesn’t say, “Get lost, Elijah.” She gives, even when she’s so indigent that she believes she will die. We’re a rich nation, and we cling and clutch and blame and demean, listening not to God’s direction but to those voices that glorify greed.

I don’t know how many times God has to tell us that we have enough to help others. At least a few more times, apparently.

Dear Lord, please don’t stop telling us to help each other. When we see others serving those in need, remind us that we are supposed to be that servant. Someday we’ll hear you. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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