It’s perhaps a sign of the times that if I mentioned the current national crisis, you probably would need clarification on which situation I was referring to. There was a global health crisis, we’ve seen a domestic political crisis, and now we face a cost-of-living crisis.
The chances are that you’re very aware of this cost-of-living crisis. The supermarket checkout and your smart meter are undoubtedly doing an excellent job of relaying the message. Prices are increasing remarkably as people are forced to make critical decisions about things they need. ‘Do we prioritise food or heating? New winter coats or new school shoes for the kids?’
These are impossible choices that we never envisaged having to make, and the present financial instability has not been helped by the instability we’ve seen in the Government. Will installing a new prime minister help bring a sense of stability? (I won’t mention the name of said prime minister, in case there is an even more recent incumbent by the time you read this article!)
During times of real financial struggle, the most natural response in the world is to ‘batten down the hatches’ and try to make things secure for one’s household. Indeed, is there a better time to think about those outside my gates? Now is the best time.
In 1 Kings 17, we find a very real-time recession and depression brought about by drought. No water means no harvests, which means no food. Scarcity leads to high demand and low supply: the exact recipe for a cost-of-living crisis.
A nameless widow in the region is feeling the brunt of this crisis. She is one of the most vulnerable people in society and has reached the limit of her ability to provide for herself and her son. All she has left is a tiny bit of flour and oil: enough to make one last loaf of bread – one final meal – and then they plan to wait to die of starvation.
It’s a bleak situation. This would be when one would probably worry about one’s household. A newcomer in town has even less than this poor widow. Elijah, God’s prophet, sends him to this widow to get his dinner.
Elijah approaches her. ‘Make that last loaf for yourself, but first of all, make something for me. And God says your flour and oil will not run out until He sends the rain.’ Every instinct in this woman must be telling her to reject this request. Does he not know that we’re in a cost-of-living crisis? But this is one of those instances when a person’s faith outweighs their fears.
Thinking about someone else’s need in a time of crisis might not be logical . . . but it is spiritual. And so, this widow takes God at His word and shares with Elijah from the poverty of resources that she has. And, through this act of faith, ‘the jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail.’ She and her son didn’t just survive the famine but thrived through it. But the outcome would have been grave if she hadn’t sacrificed and helped someone in need. The only reason Elijah survived this famine was because of the widow. But the only reason the widow survived the famine was because of Elijah. It’s almost as if God designed that we need each other to survive!
Without wishing to be a financial pessimist, as we head into the winter, things might get harder before they get easier. But God’s principles of provision have been consistent since time immemorial. His provision inhabits the faithfulness of His people.
When times get tough, we are called to be sensitive to the needs of those around us, knowing that God has ways and means to provide for our needs. If we serve Him as Elijah did, He will lead us to the ‘widows’. And if we can be faithful ‘widows’, He will send the ‘Elijahs’ to help us find our passage through every crisis.
Matthew Herel is a Pastor who serves in the South England Conference