Do you ever feel empty, and wonder why God doesn’t fill you?
He may want you to try giving, first.
1 Kings 17 tells of the time God sends a drought on Israel because of the wickedness of the king. When the rivers begin to run dry, he sends his prophet Elijah to Zarephath in neighboring Sidon. God says he has “directed” a widow there to supply Elijah with food.
The prophet finds the woman gathering sticks near the town gate. There is no sign she knows of God’s direction, though. She is willing to get Elijah some water, but when he asks for bread she demurs. I am down to my last handful of flour and a few drops of oil, she says. I’m sorry, I can’t feed you. I’m gathering these sticks for a fire; I’m going to bake one last bit of bread for my son and myself, and then we will die.
You can hear the despair in her voice. She has come to the end of the little she has. I imagine her eking out that flour, day after day, racking her brain for how to get more. Loving that boy fiercely, longing to give him what he needs.
Don’t be afraid! says the prophet. Go ahead with your plan – but first make me a small loaf from what you have. Bring it to me, then make something for you and your son. God says your jar of flour will not run out and your jug of oil will not run dry for the duration of this time of drought.
The widow is faced with a choice: feed herself and her son with the little she knows that she has, or feed this stranger and trust that the stranger’s God will provide. What makes her do what he asks? The Scripture only says that she does. And something in that act of giving, opens the floodgates. God provides for all three of them — food every day, miraculously replenished like manna in the wilderness.
The provision of flour and oil is a miracle, but I am caught by the miracle of this woman’s faith.
If I were her, I would be crying out with all my heart, asking for help for me and my son. I might ignore the needs of others, assume that poverty exempts me. Give me food and then I’ll share, would be my cry. But that is not what God asked of the widow of Zarephath. Give to Elijah and I will take care of you, is what he said. Give out of your need, and I won’t let you run out.
The Catechism tells us that “‘poverty’ is the virtue of sharing: it calls us to communicate and share both material and spiritual goods, not by coercion but out of love, so that the abundance of some may remedy the needs of others” (no. 2833).
Are you at the end of your own resources? Give the little you have left, to God. Offer it up to him, don’t hoard it for yourself. Is there someone He’s asking you to share with?
“Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).