Working Devotion: The Widow’s Oil

Lately the story of the Widow’s Oil from 2nd Kings 4 has been rolling around in my head.  The woman’s husband had died and crediors were coming to take her sons as slaves if she didn’t come up with the money owed them soon.  She told Elisha the only thing she had was oil.  Elisha told her to collect as many empty jars as she possibly could, from friends, neighbors, anyone who would give her an empty jar.  Then she was to fill every jar with oil from her oil jar.  She obeyed and every empty jar was filled.  When the jars were gone the oil stopped pouring from her jar.  With that supply of oil she was able to sell it, pay off her debts and get back on her feet.

I am in a season of life trying to provide for my family with limited resources and some days it definately feels like the creditors are on their way and desperation wants to kick in.  The story of the widow is one of faith.  She trusted and believed that if she collected lots of empty jars they would somehow be filled with her limited supply.  And God blessed her and provided.  What is interesting to me is that her success and financial freedom was limited only by her ability to collect jars.  I wonder how many she collected?  Could she have gotten more?  It seems to me she must have taken the task pretty seriously since she was able to earn enough money to both pay off her debts and live on the extra.  But what if she had done even more?  Would the oil have continued to fill the jars?  I think so.  The blessing God was giving her was only limited by her own faith and the work she was willing to put in.

There are so many interesting things to explore in this passage as a working mom.  One of the things that jumps out at me is that while God performed a miracle and blessed her, she had to work for that blessing.  God didn’t just drop money in her lap to take care of her problem, he asked her to go out and work for it trusting Him that her work would be fruitful and profitable.  I am not going to lie, I want to be profitable without the work.  All this hard work, all this being away from home, and doing things for other people, I don’t want to do it.  I just want God to magically provide for me, I want to win the lottery, get a big inheritance or develop the midas touch.  But running around to neighbors asking for empty jars?  That sounds exhausting.  I would probably have just asked a few immediate neighbors that I knew would be receptive and then gone home and hoped I had enough.  But this woman didn’t.  She and her sons went to everyone and collected so many jars and filled them up with so much oil that not only was she able to solve her immediately problem of paying off creditors but she had enough left over to live off.

Another notable thing in this passage is how she involved her sons.  When she was in the house pouring oil into the jars her sons were bringing the empty jars to her.  This is such a great image to me.  While our children can’t necessarily come with us to the office each day and help us enter data, write reports or attend meetings they can help us with our work at home.  The widow’s sons might have helped with collecting the jars but they are only mentioned helping her when she is at home.  While I love the Proverbs 31 woman for her working example, I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered what her children were doing while she was busy being perfect.   For those of us without a household full of servants to take care of our children, this widow can be our example.

Finally she went out and got a job.  OK not really but she had to go sell that oil.  I imagine that she went to the market, set up a table and worked all day long hawking her oil day after day until the last jar was gone.  Having recently spent a weekend at a vendor show I can tell you it is a lot of work.  I thought of this woman several times that weekend.

So while this is a beautiful story of God’s provision for this very needy widow it is also the story of a woman who did the work God put  before her in faith that He woud provide.

“Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.