We often think of courage as the courage to go out to battle, and indeed, our COURAGE conference drew on the story of David facing Goliath, but it can take just as much courage to be generous. Consider, for example, the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.
There was a famine in the land of Israel. Elijah had been fed by ravens and drunk water from a brook, but soon the brook dried up, so God directed him to Zarephath, which is where we join the story:
The word of the Lord came to [Elijah], “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “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.” 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 afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. - 1 Kings 17:8-16, emphasis added
Can you imagine the audacity it took Elijah to make such a request? What a cheek! But what incredible courage of the woman to do it. Elijah had seen God perform plenty of miracles in his life - he had just had a meals-on-wings delivery service of meat and bread from birds, after all - but the widow had no such assurance. All she had to go on was the promise of a total stranger who had wandered in from the desert.
The courage it took to prepare the last of her food and give it, not to herself, not even to her child, but to this stranger, was immense.
In fact, for this lady and the widow with her mite, spotted by Jesus in the Temple hundreds of years later, generosity carried precisely the same risk as David’s boldness - their lives hung in the balance. If God didn’t come through for them, they would die, and yet they gave anyway.
We don’t know what happened to the widow in Jerusalem. We never hear of her again. Maybe she got home and found miraculous provision there, or maybe she she didn’t. The lesson Jesus wanted to teach through her was not ‘be generous and God will reward you’, but ‘be truly generous, not just ostentatiously so’.
For the widow of Zarephath God did provide, for her, her son and Elijah, as he had promised. The lesson here is that God is faithful and trustworthy. He can be trusted with our resources, no matter how small they seem to be.
One characteristic of the RM family is how its members give with such courageous generosity to one another. You give of your time, your resources, your wisdom, your compassion, and your finances. Thank you.
Sometime around now you should be receiving copies in your church of a booklet called ‘Our story, our future’. It is something of a review of the first five years of RM, looking at what God has been doing through you in each of our areas of ministry focus. It also includes a financial summary of your giving and how that has been used across each of the areas.
We hope you will be deeply encouraged by what we as a family have seen God doing - and will be inspired to see more, better and deeper things over the next five years and beyond. Thank you for your courageous financial giving to this family, whether that is in large, bold gifts to our offerings and Christmas Appeals, or in the commitment to join our Grassroots Giving team and give regularly, trusting God for his provision.
Hopefully none of us are making life-or-death decisions about our giving, but we do know that often generosity requires putting to death some of our dreams and desires for life. Thank you for your courageous, sacrificial generosity.