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The Widow in Zarephath

1 Kings 17:8-14

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Then the word of the Lord came to him: [9] ‘Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there.’ [10] So Elijah got up and went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the city gate, there was a widow woman gathering wood. Elijah called to her and said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a cup and let me drink.’ [11] As she went to get it, he called to her and said, ‘Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.’ [12] But she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I don’t have anything baked—only a handful of flour in the jar and a bit of oil in the jug. Just now, I am gathering a couple of sticks in order to go prepare it for myself and my son so we can eat it and die.’ [13] Then Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said. Only make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me. Afterwards, you may make some for yourself and your son, [14] for this is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.’’ (HCSB)

 As most of you know, I lived in New Mexico for almost five years before moving to the Monterey Peninsula to become your pastor.  We have fond memories of our time in that state, and since we still own a home there, we often talk about the possibility of moving back there some day.  New Mexico is well-known for its beautiful vistas and its exquisite food.  Personally, I miss the trout streams and the minor league baseball.  What you may not know about the state is that it is perennially ranked toward the bottom in most categories among the 50 states.  New Mexicans have some of the worst roads, the poorest schools, and one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country. Yet, there is one very important category that the state ranks considerably higher in--according to the 2002 Generosity Index of the Catalogue of Philanthropy, New Mexico ranks 19th in generosity or charitable giving.  Kelli Cooper, communication director for the Albuquerque Community Foundation says the results are amazing. She says, “New Mexico’s generosity index for all income tax returns is 19th nationally, with an average charitable giving level of $2,768 (per taxpayer).” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 This story teaches me a couple things about giving.  First, giving is not an investment plan.  There is no guarantee that you will get more money if you give more money.  If that were so, then the level of income in New Mexico would have risen substantially because of the level of generosity in the state.  Please hear me say this, if you don’t, you could very easily misunderstand something I will say toward the end of this message.

 Second, generosity isn’t always connected with physical prosperity.  The most generous people are often those who have the least to give.  2 Corinthians 8: 1-2 says “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overcoming joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (NIV)

 The widow in our text today exemplifies the spirit of 2 Corinthians 8:2—she gave out of her deep poverty.  The famine made it rough on everyone, but it was especially hard on widows.  This woman wasn’t living on a fixed income—her income was broken.  She was probably fairly young since she was 

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