Pentecost 25, November 11, 2018
Text: 1 Kings 17:8–16
I need some help from all of you this morning. I want you to take a moment and think about things that you would never want to be empty. I mean, if you had your way, what would always be full? I’ll give you a moment to think about that. . . . Okay, help me out: what did you come up with? That’s all good stuff, things like coffee, your gas tank, bank account, energy. Wouldn’t it be great if these things never ran out! But here’s my question: Has that ever actually happened to anyone, for real, and not just because you get free refills with your meal? Truth is, it never happens. Eventually, it’s empty. Eventually, what we have is gone. One thing we all know is that we run out of things: gas, root beer, Cheez-Its, there never seems to be enough.
This thought leads us into an interesting set of Scripture texts that begins with a widow on the verge of running out. Before we dive in, let me give a little setup as to what’s going on. At the end of 1 Kings 16, Ahab becomes king and marries Jezebel. I have mentioned these two to you before. Together they did evil in the eyes of the Lord by leading the people to worship other gods. (Know anyone named Adolf? Jezebel?) They were really big on worshipping Baal and Asherah, ok? At God’s instruction, Elijah pronounces God’s judgment on Ahab and on the land by predicting a drought. This makes the king and queen mad, as they blame the messenger instead of seeing they are to blame for the message, and the Lord directs Elijah to go into hiding, where God miraculously meets his every need. This is in the verses right before our text where Elijah is living out in the wilderness and ravens bring Him bread and meat every morning and bread and meat every evening. I think you would know that the Lord is looking out for you if birds were feeding you twice a day.
Since there was a drought, the stream where Elijah was hanging out dried up, and Elijah had to find a new location. That brings us to the text. The Lord sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath, whom God had instructed to feed him. Elijah did as he was told. Things don’t look great for this family. The widow basically tells Elijah that she has enough flour and oil to make one more meal. She is collecting wood for one more cooking fire, the widow and her son will eat, and then they will wait to starve to death. This does not sound good, right? (And the next time your kids are jumping up and down and telling you they are starving and can’t wait for the microwave to heat up their frosted, brown sugar cinnamon pop tart, remind them of this text.)
Here we learn the gravity of her situation. The widow has nothing to offer. She is living in a place where food is scarce. She is ready to prepare a final meal for herself and her son “that we may eat it and die” (v 12). She doesn’t want to share what little she has with Elijah. She wants to keep it for her and her son. We can understand her reluctance. We would probably do the same because that is the “logical” thing to do.
Now we digress for a moment: There’s another widow before us in our Gospel. Our same logic makes that a hard story to understand. The camera zooms in on a poor widow. She’s virtually invisible—nothing more than a speed bump to avoid as the rich go about their daily lives. She pulls out two copper coins and with no fanfare, no pat on the back, drops them into the treasury. The smallest drop in the ocean!
Again, our logic kicks in. Why would she do it? What’s she thinking? If that’s all you have, why give it away? Our conclusion: that’s ridiculous, that’s foolish! If all you had to your name was two dollars, would you put it in the offering plate?
Today we are confronted with two different stories, but human logic gets us to the same place. The common wisdom around us is if you are eating your last supper, don’t share it. If you’re down to your last penny, don’t give it away. That’s how we think. We will even justify it in our minds saying, “Certainly God understands the nature of scarcity.” Yes, he does. The problem isn’t with Him; it’s with us.
When something is scarce, and we have some of it, we try and preserve it and protect it. We take our cars to get maintained and we wash them and such. Right? We try and keep our homes up and insure them in case something goes dreadfully wrong. When I was in college, and my mom baked me stuff and brought it to me or sent it to me, I would try and hide it from my roommate, so he would not help himself. This was especially true when my mom baked apple kuchen or butterhorns. That’s what logic tells us to do.
We’re happy to feed the poor when cupboards are full, happy to give . . . donate . . . tithe when the account is overflowing. When it gets down to it, we tend to trust in our abundance. Our logical way of thinking is to trust in abundance.
Yet, how often does abundance prevent us from loving and trusting God, and His Son Jesus? Remember, for example, a few weeks ago: Mark 10 told the story of a rich young man. He wanted to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus invited him to be a disciple. But he loved his money more than Jesus, so Jesus told him to give his money away. He went away sad because his heart and his trust were in his abundance.
Logic is a gift from God, but sometimes the way we depend on logic gets in the way of what God is trying to teach us. The accounts of both widows teach the same lesson: God uses scarcity as a doorway to trust. Trust in the Lord and the fact that He has promised to give us everything we need and to take care of us is the only way either of these stories makes sense. A widow in Zarephath obeys, and they all eat for days. The Bible doesn’t say what happens to our other widow, but the point is clear: When We Trust in the Lord, We Know There Is Always Enough.
That’s easier said than done, of course, but it really should be no surprise, because God has been using scarcity to lead His people to trust Him for a long time. He provided manna in the desert (Exodus 16). He brought water from a rock (Exodus 17). With just five loaves and two fish, how many thousands of men, women, and children did Jesus feed (Lk 9:10–17)? There was so much abundance they even had leftovers because with Jesus there is always enough.
Jesus is always enough! A lesson we struggle to learn, but one that time and again points us to the cross. Jesus came to be enough—enough to pay the full price of our sin. His mission was not about multiplying food to fill our stomachs but about ransom and restoration to free our souls and fill us to overflowing with grace and forgiveness. The Old Testament sacrifices were never enough to cleanse us from our sin. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Christ came to be enough: “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26). Jesus is always enough. With Him there is always enough forgiveness, always enough salvation, always enough faith which He gives to us.
It is into the full “enoughness” of Jesus Christ that you have been baptized. You have been joined with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. You are credited with His righteousness, filled with His grace, crowned with His glory, and loved with a never-ending love. So perhaps the next time you find yourself hurt, wondering if you have enough to forgive, remember that with Jesus Christ there is always enough. Or perhaps your boss is a real jerk and treats you like you are dirt, and the Bible says we are to love those that aren’t nice to us and you wonder if you have enough love. Remember that with Jesus Christ, there is always enough. As God’s children, saved from our sins, we do not need to be afraid of running out, because our Heavenly Father is a God of abundance. When we put our trust in the Lord, when we put our trust in Jesus, we can be sure, no matter the circumstances, there is always enough.
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vo. 28, Part 4.