In tonight’s Old Testament reading, the prophet Elijah is living on borrowed time. He’s challenged the authority of an evil king, so he lit out for the country to hide. He’s been relying on food brought by the birds, and now his water source has dried up. It’s not exactly a sustainable model.
So God, who’s pretty good at providing daily bread, tells Elijah to go ask a poor widow for food in the midst of a drought. It’s kind of like passing the plate at the soup kitchen. This widow is down to her last handful of the meal she uses to make bread. But the prophet asks her to give up the last little bit she has, all she has to live on, even in the face of famine. Elijah tells her not to be afraid – in fact, to feed him first and then bake some bread for herself and her child. To our ears, it sounds appalling. But Elijah brings God’s word of abundance into this world of scarcity: The meal and the oil will hold out until the rains come, Elijah says. And they do. Elijah, the widow, and her child – they all eat happily ever after.
Trusting God’s abundance…. We see the same dynamic in the Gospel story of the poor widow’s offering to the Temple treasury. Jesus and his followers are watching people put their money in the offering plate, so to speak. Jesus sees wealthy people giving large sums while the poor widow – the lowest and the least in society, someone with no visible means of support – the poor widow puts in small change, just a fraction of a worker’s daily wage. For us, think of it as a dollar. But Jesus recognizes value others don’t see. He says to his followers that she put in “everything she had, all she had to live on” – which, translated literally, actually says, “She put in her whole life.”
Giving your life. That’s what both widows did. How scary is that?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not so willing to give my life away. Sure, there are things I manage to turn over to God, and that makes me feel good for a while … right up until I see the next part of my life that I want to hang onto and control. Whatever their motivations may have been, these two widows trusted, in an astonishing way, that God was going to take care of them. In such a situation, our worldly wisdom says, “Great – but be sure you have a backup plan, too.” Jesus says, no – there is no backup plan. It’s not, “Trust and verify.” It’s not, “Trust and plan wisely.” It’s just, “Trust.”
Now, I don’t think Jesus is saying to us, literally, that we should put “all [we] have to live on” into anybody’s offering plate. He’s actually asking something harder. Put your whole life into the offering plate. Whatever you want to hold onto most, that’s the offering he’s asking for.
We name that kind of deep trust every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, even if we may not realize it. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we say. Give us today our bread for tomorrow. Teach us to rely on you, Lord. And whatever we need to part with, in order to learn to trust … help us to let go of that.In your life, how is God asking you to trust? What’s God asking you to give away to make room for your daily bread?