How hard is it to share what you have when you don’t have much to begin with? How can we learn to be more generous? With our nation shelling out trillions of dollars it can’t afford, our lives could be in for a big change. Will we be able to trust God for provision if times get really tough?
At the beginning of this present crisis, when none of us knew how bad it was going to be, or how long it was going to last, my husband did something that I thought was quite remarkable. You couldn’t find disinfectant or hand sanitizer on the store shelves anywhere. And, at that time, those things seemed more valuable than gold. They might mean the difference between life and death. We didn’t know what we were up against. Was this going to be the Spanish flu, where millions of people around the globe died? Or worse?
Peter started digging under the sink and found two full containers of spray disinfectant. Hurray! We were rich! But would it be enough? We needed to use it carefully.
We were talking with one of our neighbors who seemed really worried because he didn’t have any disinfectant of any kind. Peter went into the house and got one of our precious containers and gave it to the neighbor. No big deal at any other time. But a true act of faith that day.
Things are looking better right now, but I wonder if the life we’ve lived in America can be sustained much longer. With trillions and trillions of dollars of debt, I don’t think you have to be a prophet to see the handwriting on the wall. So how we treat our neighbors when things are worse than we can imagine, could be a choice we face in the future.
I wrote about such choices in my free e-book, I Was a Stranger: a Guide to Biblical Hospitality. Almost three years ago. It could have been written in reaction to Covid-19. I’ve copied a couple of short sections here. I’d like you to read it because it’s a story about miracles of provision. We may well need a miracle or two down the road.
The following is an excerpt from I Was a Stranger: A Guide to Biblical Hospitality
Doing God’s Will When It Seems Irresponsible
There’s a story in the Bible about a preacher and a widow and her son that would make the headlines of every newspaper in America if it happened today: Preacher Demands Last Bite of Bread from Starving Woman and Child. It would be the lead story on every cable network.
Let me give you a little background before I jump in.
This story takes place during the reign of Ahab, King of Israel. Ahab was a really bad dude, and he had a wife who was even worse than he. Her name was Jezebel. Heard of her?
Israel had had a string of evil kings who had led God’s people into idol worship and all sorts of reprehensible behavior.
And just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse!
“Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30 NIV).
See what I mean?
There was a prophet in Israel at that time named Elijah, and he didn’t like what this bad king was doing to God’s people. So he challenged him. But King Ahab wouldn’t be worried about what some wild-eyed preacher from Tishbe had to say, so Elijah had to back up his words with some action.
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word. (1 Kings 17:1 NIV)
No rain? No dew? For how long? Years?
Well, that would get Ahab’s attention, wouldn’t it? You can read the entire account in 1 Kings chapters 17 and 18, but I’m focusing on Elijah’s interaction with a particular widow.
Elijah was affected by this prolonged drought just like everyone else. On top of that, he had to hide from Ahab, who was trying to knock him off, thinking if the prophet was dead it might somehow start raining again.
As the drought spread, God had told Elijah to hide out next to a brook in the Kerith Ravine, east of Jordan, and He sent ravens with meat and bread in their beaks every morning and every evening to feed him. Not exactly Pizza Hut delivery, but Elijah didn’t starve.
But eventually the stream dried up. No water. Now what?
God spoke to Elijah again:
“Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” (verse 17) So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” (1 Kings 17:9–10)
The audacity of this guy!
Okay, it’s one thing to ask for a drink of water, but asking a poor widow for bread?
“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.” Okay. So Elijah said, “I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t think of taking a piece of bread from a starving widow and her son.” NOT! This is what he said (verse 13): “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.”
What kind of man was Elijah?—telling a widow to not only share her last morsel of food but to feed him first. Every warning bell in this woman’s head should have been going off. But remember, God had told Elijah, “I have directed a widow to supply you with food.”
I’m sure the widow didn’t consciously realize she was being directed by God, but something inside told her to listen to Elijah—to put aside her fears and do something that seemed preposterous—even irresponsible. After all, she had more than herself to consider. She had a son at home who was starving to death. Sometimes God asks us to do something that seems absolutely irrational.
But what did the woman have to lose?
This was her last bite of food. It might keep her and her son alive another day. Maybe not even that. And it’s important to note that Elijah didn’t ask the woman to do this blindly. He told her what God’s promise was (verse 14).
“For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘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.’”
The widow faced a decision.
Her choice was to believe what God was saying—or not. Faith is hearing what God says and believing it enough to do what He says. (verses 15-16)
“She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.”
This widow had a choice to make. She could live in fear and hang on to what little bit she had, or she could believe the word of the Lord and share it with some guy she didn’t even know.
What would have happened if this widow had hung on to that last little handful of meal? It would have been gone in a few bites, and she and her son would have died.
What Are We Hanging on To?
Elijah said, “Don’t be afraid.”
There’s a lot of fear in America today, and with good reason, it would seem. People are concerned about their retirement, about terrorism, about an intrusive government. Some people are afraid of an economic collapse, so they stockpile food and supplies.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t save or invest or have a store of food on hand. We should do all of these. But what’s our motive? Fear or faith? Is our trust in our retirement funds? Our savings account? The cellar where we have our hidden stockpile? God told the widow not to be afraid. To share what she had. Not to hang on to it.
And what happened? A miracle!
Matthew 6:19–21 (NIV) says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
How do we store up treasures in heaven? By the way we treat people on earth.
I truly see nothing wrong with stockpiling supplies and food for a reasonable amount of time. There are any number of scenarios in which this would prove to be a wise decision.
I have a question though. Are you going to eat that food you’ve stored and watch your neighbors starve?
Is that what Jesus would do?
Now, if you’re going to stockpile food so you’ll have some to share with the hungry, I say, “Good for you.” If you’re going to stockpile food and hide it from your starving neighbors, that’s not so good.
We can expect God to provide for us by a miracle if we open our hearts and share what we have with those who need it.
If we don’t, we’ll have to be content with what we can provide for ourselves, and no matter how well prepared we think we are, we can lose it all in an instant. If you don’t believe that, study the Great Depression.
I believe we’re facing some challenging times ahead. America is a lot like Israel was at the time of Elijah. We’ve set aside God and worshiped at the altar of materialism. Our greed and irresponsibility have brought us to a precarious place.
So what should our reaction be to this impending doom? Shake in our boots? No.
It’s time to get close to God. Pray. Read the Bible. And then do what the Bible says. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
This is no time to fear. It’s a time to lay up treasures in heaven. End of excerpt
The essence of I Was a Stranger is taken from Matthew 25 where Jesus separated the goats and the sheep and told them that whatever they had done to the least of his brothers or sisters, they had done to Him. Would we give Jesus a can of disinfectant in a pandemic? Of course. If we knew it was Him. But that pesky neighbor? Would we take part of the food we’d stored up for an emergency and give it to someone who hadn’t worked hard and stored their own food? Whatever we’ve done to one of the least we’ve done to Jesus.
If you haven’t read this free e-book, I believe you’ll find it very helpful as we face the future. And it’s got some hysterical stories in it, like the one where I tried to get in bed with the visiting preacher and his wife (I was sleep-walking!). And there’s a cookbook with some really great recipes in it! Brownies that are out of this world. Chicken enchiladas. Yumm!
Here’s Rebecca with a short story about her own journey towards generosity.
When my mom and I talked about the stories I wanted to share about how we, as a family, have seen God provide for our needs throughout our lives, it was hard to narrow it down.
There have been so many!
We have really seen God prove Himself to be Jehovah Jireh.
I saw such generosity in both my parents as I was growing up. Their focus was always on other’s needs and not their own. I am fully confident that God provided for them because of it. But for some reason, as I became an adult, being generous became a lot harder. It’s easy to give from your parents’ pocketbook, ha-ha!
Fortunately, God knew I had more to learn, so He blessed me with a husband who is generous—almost to a fault. Sometimes his generosity frightened me. It seemed careless since we had very little ourselves. He would give people money for groceries when I wasn’t sure how we were going to get through the week.
He gave away a drum set he had just bought. When I asked him why?—he said, I just felt like God wanted me to.
Another time he paid for a place for a guy in need and gave him money to get back on his feet while we were living on one very low income. Doug never did anything to get something back, but a few weeks later, we had a major catastrophe with our house that was going to cost us over $3000 to fix. God supplied the money in a crazy way, and not a penny out of our pocket.
I have to admit, sometimes it was hard to see him give away money or things we could sell, but God always reminded me of Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
I’m thankful that I came from a generous family, and that I married a generous man. It’s not always easy for me, but when I just jump in with the generosity, I realize it’s really fun!
II Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
So, if we all decide in our hearts that no matter what happens, we’re going to be cheerful givers, it’ll be easier to do when things get bad.
Don’t forget to get your free copy of I Was a Stranger: A Guide to Biblical Hospitality now! It’s both fun and serious and it has a great cookbook full of my mom’s favorite recipes: chicken enchiladas, cowboy cookies, the best-in-the-world brownies, and more!
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