“Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.’” 2 Kings 4:3 (NIV 2011)
Problems. I prefer to keep them to myself. Being fiercely independent, my instinct is to slam the cellar door shut at the first sign of high winds. In other words, no one’s getting in until the storm is past. I’ll let God in, no problem. But you — I keep out.
Over the years, God has challenged me on this independent approach, calling it was it is: pride.
It’s not overt arrogance, but by keeping others at a distance, it implies I’m all-sufficient and don’t need your help. Plus, the insecure little girl in me worries that if you see weakness in my life, you’ll question my competency. As so, I’ve kept to myself, creating a prideful façade of control.
That didn’t work very well, however. Repeatedly, God has called me to a place of greater interdependence with others. He’s worked miracles in my life when I’ve humbly asked for prayer. He’s broken down walls of distance when I’ve allowed people to see the real me. I’ve seen His hand move at the request of my godly friends.
It’s now obvious to me God designed us to work together. We are pieces of the same puzzle, and life makes more sense when we are connected.
There’s a story in the Old Testament that shows God’s plan for interdependence. It’s found in the book of 2 Kings and concerns a widow who had a big problem. She needed resources, but the coin jar was empty. Her husband died, leaving her with no means of support, and a pile of debts she couldn’t pay. Creditors demanded restitution. Since there was no money, they planned to take her children as slaves.
Desperate, she sought help from Elisha, a man known to be set apart for God. Elisha asked her to do something unusual: go to all her neighbors and request empty jars … lots of them. Then, she was to return home, take what little oil she had left and pour it into the jars.
The widow did as Elisha instructed. When she returned home, she started pouring. As each jar filled, her sons brought her another. They filled every borrowed jar with oil. Elisha then told her to sell the oil, pay the creditors and live off the rest. She did.
What I love about this story is that the quantity of the miracle oil was in direct proportion to the number of neighbors she asked for help. If she had asked five neighbors, that’s how much oil she would have had. Ten neighbors meant ten jars. And so on. The more people the widow asked for help, the greater God’s provision.
There’s another part of the story not told by the Bible passage, but I can’t help but wonder if it happened. At some point, the widow would have returned the borrowed jars. When she did, I imagine she would have told each neighbor what God had done for her, and how that neighbor played a part in the miracle. What a testimony that must have been!
God could have worked a miracle in any way, but He chose to involve each member of that little neighborhood. I imagine they were never the same after being part of something so amazing.
This story speaks clearly to me. God often plans to meet my needs through others. Yet if I keep my problems to myself, I might hinder His plan to bless my friends and broadcast His faithfulness. I’m learning to deny the lies of a prideful spirit in exchange for a humble plea for help. I’m trading my fierce independence for God’s plan of community.
Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve kept to myself, believing I have everything necessary to solve my problems. In doing so, I may have missed Your plan for meeting my needs through others. Help me to identify pride and submit it to You. Help me to have a humble and teachable spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.