Today’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 17:1-24) features one of those classic Sunday School stories about trusting in God. The prophet Elijah comes to the town of Zarephath, where God has directed a widow to provide for him (although — as the story will make clear — the widow doesn’t know that yet). Elijah asks the widow to bring him a drink of water and some bread, but the widow replies: “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.” (1 Kings 17:12)
Don’t we find ourselves in that very same place at times? We feel like our resources (money, time, ability, etc.) are too meager to meet our own needs — let alone the needs of others — and so we’re tempted to stay focused on how we should spend those resources on ourselves.
But Elijah challenges the widow’s thinking. He tells her to go ahead and make that last meal for herself and her son. “But first,” he says, “make a small loaf for me; and this is what the LORD promises: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.'” (1 Kings 17:14) And so it was.
In today’s New Testament lesson (Philippians 2:1-11), the scriptures make it clear that this willingness to be spent for others is not only the stuff of children’s Sunday School stories; it lies at the heart of the redemption we’ve received in Christ; and hence, at the heart of what it means to follow Christ. Because even though He was in “very nature God”:
He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Phil 2:6-8)
What opportunities might God send our way today to be “spent for others”? May we be attentive to those divine appointments; and when they come, may we trust the Lord enough to give freely — and to discover in the process that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)