SCOTT DREYER: Use What You Have 

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“Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” 

 –2 Kings 4:2

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Do you feel like your life is out of control?

Do you feel like our world is out of control? 

Do you feel like a helpless victim?

Do you feel like your “gas tank” is on “Empty”?

The Bible says, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and times of doubt and fear are not unique to our generation. 

In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we read about a family in desperation. The widow of a godly prophet was left as a single mom in debt raising two sons. And if you think debt collectors today are heartless, her creditor was coming to seize her boys as slaves! (And if you think slavery began in 1619, think again–slavery has existed about as long as there have been humans.)

In her anguish, the widow sought help from the only source she thought of, the prophet Elisha. Interestingly, he responded to her plea with two questions:

 “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

She answered: “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a small jar of olive oil.”

In turn, Elisha gave her an odd-sounding command: “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

Rather than doubt his bizarre guidance, she immediately obeyed him in faith. She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

This short, ancient story is so rich with meaning and encouragement for us today. 

  • The widow was not too proud to ask for help–from both Elisha and her neighbors. 
  • She used discernment to ask the right person for help–she didn’t just vent. 
  • She displayed immediate faith, even when it didn’t make sense.
  • She used the only thing she had: a small jar of oil.
  • God met her need in direct relationship to the size of her vision: once they ran out of borrowed jars, the oil flow stopped.

This is not the only example from scripture of someone using something small and insignificant to accomplish greatness. Moses had a speech impediment but used his walking stick to help free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 4:1-17). David was a shepherd and the youngest in his family, but he turned down the king’s armor and instead used a stick, five stones, and a slingshot to kill the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:38-40). 

In these challenging times, when demands seem overwhelming and resources seem scant, what do you have? 

When God is in it, a little can do a lot!

Scott Dreyer in his classroom.

– Scott Dreyer