2 Kings 4:1-7
Let’s read 2 Kings 4:1-7. Before you do though, a little precursor: If your anything like me, you may be tempted to read scripture on a blog post like a cereal box in the morning – as in – not throughly. I invite you however to slow down and take a moment and really read this woman’s story. You will find some great nuggets of wisdom in the area of support raising I promise.
“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” 2 Kings 4:1-7
So lets take a few moments to consider this widow’s story together. This woman’s prophetic, God-fearing husband is dead; making the widow a single mom of two boys with insurmountable money problems. As in, she doesn’t have any. Because she is so behind on payments, creditors are coming to take the two boys to be sold into slavery. From reading about the widow’s situation we can induct she is likely to be experiencing frustration, exhaustion, anxiety, stress, and loneliness amongst other things.
In her desperate need she seeks out the man of God (Elisha) for help. Elisha asks what she has in the house, and she says nothing at all but a lonely and useless jar of olive oil. (Have you ever wondered if that is literally all they had? I mean, do they even have straw beds in the house? Perhaps a dishrag? Only a jar of olive oil?!? What about a a pair of socks or a dust pan or broom? (I digress. I realize this is not the point.)
Essentially Elisha tells the widow what to do to save herself and her sons. Go collect empty jars from her neighbors and pray for a miracle of course! You have to know she probably felt crazy following his seemingly unhelpful instructions. I know I would. And not only does it seem absolutely NOT the right answer for creditors coming to take her sons, but then factor in the potential uncomfortable situations this creates for the widow. Maybe she has already asked her neighbors numerous times for resources and favors, making Elisha’s plan dig into her already existing wounds. Maybe there is a judgmental neighbor in the neighborhood, someone she wouldn’t want to ask a favor of in a thousand bad years. Maybe the neighbors are long distances away, making this task seem to be the icing on the cake of her exhaustion.
All of this to say if I were the widow I’d be in no mood for all of this faith business. But then again, she asked for it.
There are so many lessons on healthy support raising in this story I do not even know where to start! For the sake of brevity, here are 5 lessons I’d like to point out:
Lesson #1: Having faith often doesn’t make sense and often makes us uncomfortable. I’m a very practical person. Sometimes to a fault. If God told me the solution to my epic mountain of a problem was to go collect empty jars from my neighbors I would think twice. Actually probably more than twice. I’d like to say I would do it, but I would be hesitant. For me the actual act of gathering the jars from neighbors would include a lot of faith, some embarrassment, awkwardness, and loads of uncomfortable self-talk (ie. “this person is going to think I’m crazy”, “she will give me a jar but has nothing herself, how can I ask?”, “she will give me a jar but will hang it over my head” ) Sound familiar?
When the widow acted on her faith and said yes to God’s plan, she experienced a miracle. It is likely that God may be asking you to act in faith so that He can provide. Maybe collecting jars to you looks like inviting someone to join your team that you haven’t talked to in eons. Maybe it is just asking someone that makes you uncomfortable. Let the self-talk go and ask God what He wants to do.
Lesson #2: Having faith DOES NOT mean we should sit around and wait for God to do all of the work. Have you noticed that God’s plan usually involves us actually doing something? Elisha could have clapped his hands and made the jar appear out of thin air, but typically that’s not how these things work. Just like the fish and five loaves, or Peter getting out of the boat – we often have to take action in our faith. We WALK by faith and not by sight.
In your support raising, you will always have what I call “manna moments”. It’s that thing where without asking an individual eagerly jumps on your monthly partnership team, or a church CALLS YOU and asks if you can speak at their next service. Most of the time, manna moments are the exception and not the rule. Sure God provided for the Israelites for awhile with manna from heaven, but at some point they had to move forward.
Lesson #3: Ask and you you shall receive. “We have not because we ask not.” (James 4:2) What would have happened if the widow asked even more of her neighbors for jars? Quick answer here: she would have had more money to live off of. What would have happened if she gave into the awkwardness and not asked her neighbors for the jars? Quick answer again: She wouldn’t have had enough money to pay her debts.
Raising support is not about waiting for people to get the hint and support you. There must be action on your part, and your part is to invite others to join in what your doing and be a part of the Great Commission.
Lesson #4: God wants to involve others, and it is about more than just you and your needs. As I stated above, God could have just snapped His fingers and provided enough oil and jars for the widow. But He didn’t. I believe He wanted the widow to act in faith but He also cared for the neighbors. He wanted to show Himself to them. He wanted them involved for His glory.
You may think you it would be lovely to just get paid via check for the ministry work you do. I’ve been there. I get it. But think about the team you are building around you and I challenge you think about the big picture. Just as God didn’t want to provide the miracle in a vacuum for the widow, the same goes for you. He’s all about them being involved, revealing hearts, and moving them forward in the call on their lives and of the Great Commission too. Think macro, not micro. Think no vacuums.
Lesson #5: Listen to God, not to your fears. Again, the self-talk going on in my head if I were the widow would be un-ending. It’s likely that you could be experiencing something similar as you step out in faith. But I challenge you to be like the widow and WALK by faith and not by sight. To move beyond the awkwardness and boldly ask. To involve others, even the uncomfortable ones, in the story. I challenge you to listen to God and not your fears.
Let’s be like the widow people.
God will provide the oil if we go get the jars. – Tweet this
4 thoughts on “5 Support Raising Lessons from The Widow’s Olive Oil”
Jen you are a great blessing to all in Eurasia! You have helped many to get to the field!
Love the way you use scripture to teach us about our opportunity to serve the Lord.
I have read through your article
5 Support Raising Lessons from The Widow’s Olive Oil and I have a personal question.
The widow in the story had A JAR OF OIL. My question is “What is my JAR of oil? What is it that I have that God is asking from me?” I am not able to figure this out. Kindly help me with this thought.
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Very good and practical life sermon
Great insight into that story. Just an observation; verse 6, I quote in part, says “There is not another vessel,” So the oil ceased. End of quote. I feel there is meaning here as well.