8 The Lord’s word came to Elijah: 9 Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. 10 Elijah left and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks. He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.” 11 She went to get some water. He then said to her, “Please get me a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I’m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We’ll eat the last of the food and then die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go and do what you said. Only make a little loaf of bread for me first. Then bring it to me. You can make something for yourself and your son after that. 14 This is what Israel’s God, the Lord, says: The jar of flour won’t decrease and the bottle of oil won’t run out until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15 The widow went and did what Elijah said. So the widow, Elijah, and the widow’s household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour didn’t decrease nor did the bottle of oil run out, just as the Lord spoke through Elijah.
- 1 Kings 17:8-16 CEB
On Wednesday the Powerball Jackpot reached a record 1.5 billion dollars. Never had the jackpot been so high. My husband meditated on it for awhile. "I couldn't ever own that much money," he said to me. "I would end up giving most of it away." I tend to agree with him. I think our family got to this mental realization because our priorities were put into question. We lost everything that wasn't really needed, and had to really work for what was truely important. It left us seeing God's abundance and God's manna in new light. This month I didn't even have enough money to help officiate a friends funeral. (I just want a glass of water. 1.5 billion gallons of it would be more than enough to drown.)
I think scripture helps us see what we shouldn't do with such an abundant windfall. In Genesis 26:12-33, Isaac follows God's instruction and comes upon a windfall crop. He could share from his abundance, helping those around him in famine. Instead he keeps it. What results is his neighbors taking away his water, and kicking him out. How the story might have changed if he had been a good steward of God's blessing. We will never know.
Conversely, we have the widow. She had almost nothing; just enough to feed her son and herself for one more meal. This is like the story of Isaac, in that there is another famine. It diverges from the initial story, in that God's not blessing some huge crop. Instead, God asks Elijah to go to a widow, who is preparing the last of her provisions for her and her son, and bless what little she already has.
The first story was basically an ancient Near East lottery win, and the devastation that followed. The second was God's manna, God's "just enough," coming in and taking care of three people.
Here's some questions to consider the day after the drawing: