The Willing Heart
by Jacob Hudgins
There is a drought in Israel. Having fed his prophet Elijah with ravens, God sends him out of the country. “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you”(1 Kings 17:9). While it is surprising enough that God sends him to no Jewish widow, it is downright alarming when we learn more of the circumstances of the widow of Zarephath. Elijah meets her and asks her for food, to which she responds, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die”(1 Kings 17:12). To summarize, God sends Elijah on a long journey to a foreign nation so that he can be fed by a woman who has no food.
It is notable that the woman is not hostile to Elijah and his request. She does not chide him or question him. She merely observes that she has no food to give him. “And Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “The jar of flour shall not be spend, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth”’”(1 Kings 17:13-14). She will have what she needs but must prove her willingness by making a cake for Elijah first. God does a great miracle here, providing food for the willing widow, her son, and Elijah—on the basis of her willing heart.
We often think of our service as coming out of our abundance. When we have lots of free time, lots of discretionary income, and lots of energy, we will do more for others. The widow proves her willingness by giving out of her poverty. When Jesus observes another widow placing two mites into the temple treasury, he praises the fact that “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on”(Mark 12:44). Paul sums up this principle when he states, “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have”(2 Cor 8:12, NKJV). God judges us according to our willingness, not our abundance.
But the widow also teaches us that we never have so little that we cannot help. There is always something we can do, even if it seems small in our eyes. God blesses this widow, her son, and Elijah through her willingness to share. He even demonstrates that he is willing to give us more if we are willing to use it well and help others. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need”(Eph 4:28). Our work is intended not just to provide for ourselves, but to bless the needy. The widow reminds us that this expectation of sharing is not limited to the wealthy.
God has blessed us so richly—financially, relationally, educationally, spiritually. Are we willing to share what we have to bless others?