“Go, sell the oil and pay your debts.”
–2 Kings 4:7a
In a recent column “Use what you have,” we saw how a desperate widow about to have her two sons sold into slavery begged the prophet Elisha for help. This story, as recorded in 2 Kings 4:1-7 in the Bible, has Elisha giving the widow odd-sounding advice:
“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.” (verses 3-4)
Despite that bizarre counsel, the widow obeyed in faith. Miraculously, her sons “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. (verses 5-6)
The story ends: 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.”
We do not know why the widow’s late husband, himself a prophet, had gotten himself into debt in the first place. (Obviously, he was not a follower of Dave Ramsey.) But regardless of what had caused the problem, Elisha had a clear solution for the widow and her family. Sell the oil and get debt-free; then live off the rest.
Long before there was a Dave Ramsey or a “Debt-free Scream,” and even before the lifetime of Elisha, the scriptures in Proverbs 22:7 warned against debt: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” (CSB)
Elisha wisely knew that if the widow just sold the olive oil she had miraculously gotten, she could pay off her debts in full, get her sons out of hock, and still have extra to live comfortably.
What does this story have to do with us today? Many folks see no value in Bible study, thinking that this ancient book is too old or irrelevant to be of help now, but that is not so. Just as the widow was able to enjoy “financial freedom” by getting out of debt, the same is true for us today. Being able to live without monthly payments takes an incredible amount of strain off one’s mind, marriage, and/or budget, especially in unsettled times like we find ourselves in now.
Speaking of “unsettled,” consider our national debt. It took the USA over 200 years–from Presidents George Washington to Ronald Reagan–to rack up our first trillion dollars of debt. However, it only took about six years to double to two trillion. By 1996, it was at five trillion. It had doubled again to 10 trillion by 2009. It then doubled again to 20 trillion by 2017, a mere four years ago. Today it’s over 28 trillion and up, up and away!
A look at recent history shows that, regardless of which political party holds the White House or Congress, the national debt is spiraling higher and higher.
A key principal of life is, it’s hard enough to control yourself, and you can’t control another person. You can’t control what happens in the White House, but you can control what happens in your house. You can’t control the national budget, but you can control your own budget.
Again, Proverbs 22:7 warns: “the borrower is a slave to the lender.” Do you want to run the risk of a modern-day slavery for yourself or your family by being in debt? Focus on what you can influence. Experience financial freedom. Make a plan to get debt free.
– Scott Dreyer