When the widow approaches the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7), she is desperate not only to feed her two children but to save them from being sold into slavery – seemingly her only option to pay off a debt. Elisha asks what she has in her house. The woman finds a jar of oil. Elisha instructs her to borrow empty vessels, and not just a few, from her neighbors. Elisha tells her to take the vessels home and start pouring oil from her own jar into the borrowed ones. The woman pours and pours until she runs out of jars. Now she can sell the oil, pay her debts, and feed her family.
Some praise the woman’s own agency, as she helped alleviate her poverty. But the more powerful truth is she couldn’t do it on her own. The widow needed the help of her community. She gathered jars from neighbors and received help from Elisha. Her family’s nourishment was a community effort.
This message is from “We do it together.” by Lisa A. Smith in the April 2021 Gather magazine.
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