She was frustrated and somewhat angry, she was miserable and hopeless, she was at the end of her rope and there, in front of her, was her dead husband’s former boss. She approached him and said, “My husband gave his all for you, he was your servant, and now he is gone. And, in return for his faithfulness to you, his widow and children, are now penniless and sliding deeper into a pit of despair.”
The boss queried, “What do you need?”
This was an easy yet difficult answer for the woman. It was easy because the needs were all she had thought about since the loss of her husband. The question was difficult because she was not sure where to begin. It didn’t take long, however, for her to respond, “I’m about to lose my children.”
The boss followed with another question, “What do you have?”
This was also an easy yet difficult answer. Easy because she didn’t have much, difficult because what she did have seemed insignificant and not worthy of being mentioned.
It was also difficult because relinquishing the little that she did have, regardless of how insignificant, was scary.
This is the story of Elisha and the widow documented in II Kings 4. It is a story of the wife of a servant of Elisha following the death of her husband. She was being hounded by creditors who were now about to take her children and sell them into slavery.
It is the story of each of us.
The widow was desperate. She was hopeless. She was mad.
Just like us.
When Elisha asked “What do you have?”, she replied “nothing, except a jar of oil”.
Oil was a forgettable possession since it seemed so meaningless. At the same time, it was an essential possession, as was seen in the story of Elijah and a diffent widow.
It was also forgettable, at least verbally, because giving over control of the only thing we think we have is difficult. It is our basic humanity to hold on to it with all our might, not trusting anyone to take it away. It was, and is, difficult because trusting often means things will not go as we hoped or planned. It means we will give up control.
Ultimately, she handed over the oil. In return, Elisha pointed out that she had so much more. She had her children, she had other vessels and she had neighbors who also had vessels. In the end she saved her children, gave the neighbors back their vessels, and gained a security that permitted her to live, work, and survive.
All because she realized what she had and trusted it to one who could meet her need.
What do you have?