Generosity in Scarcity

Patrick Vestal

I’ve been thinking a lot about the situation in which we find ourselves. Throughout the scriptures there are a lot of examples of widespread hardships. From famines and droughts that lasted for years and oppressive kingdoms and authorities mistreating people, the Israelites were no strangers to hardship. As I was reflecting on this the last two weeks, I couldn’t shake the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17). There’s been a famine for a while- Elijah says it will last for a few years. Elijah had been living by a brook, being fed by ravens. Then, God tells him to go to Zarephath where God has appointed a woman to care for him. When Elijah arrives and asks for water and bread she says, “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 


Whoa! She doesn’t seem prepared to care for another person for a couple years. She hasn’t saved up. She doesn’t have a store of extra that she’s been planning on sharing with others when hardship comes. And yet! God provided for them. Everyday could have been the last day. Each new day they were totally dependent on God to supply for their needs. 


What if she had ignored Elijah in his need? We can’t say for sure- but it’s likely that she would have eaten the last bread and taken her last drink. Instead, she chose to act outside of her own best interest and in the interest of the man in need- because of this great act she was sustained until the end of the famine and her son, who had died of sickness, was brought back to life by God through Elijah. 


I’ve been wondering what the global Church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic should look like. I don’t have the heavy burden of people who are wiser, more powerful and more influential than I. I’m not in the place to have answers to bigger questions. However, I am in the place to love and care for my neighbor. I am in the place to look out for those who are less fortunate than myself and see what ways I can be serving them. Wisdom and prudence in health and safety definitely have their place- but suppose circumstances don’t get better. Suppose God’s will is that the widespread hardship continues and becomes worse, are we going to be found sitting idly by as people suffer and perish? 

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

2 Responses to “Generosity in Scarcity”

  1. Lorna says:

    Great thoughts! Be sure and keep our church informed of needs!

  2. Chris Eder says:

    These times really a test of faith. Do we let go and trust God? Or, do we lean on our own understanding? If we lean on our own understanding, we open ourselves up to emotional responses like anxiety, anger, depression, greed etc. There sin gets a hold on us and binds us to emotional responses.
    Lean on and trust the Lord our God to take us through this time. He can do amazing things.
    As I say this, I am reminded of emotions I’ve seen displayed, just at our local grocery. Who knows how many rolls of TP they have squirreled away already? LOL

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