“One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead. You well know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves.’

Elisha said, ‘I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?’

‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘Well, I do have a little oil.’

‘Here’s what you do,’ said Elisha. ‘Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.’

She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, ‘Another jug, please.’

He said, ‘That’s it. There are no more jugs.’

Then the oil stopped. She went and told the story to the man of God. He said, ‘Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what’s left’.” 2 Kings 4:1-7 (MSG)


A widow came to the prophet Elisha with a serious problem. Her husband had died, and her sons were going to be sold to pay her debts. Her sons represented her future financial security. During that time, there were no programs to help people in a retirement stage of life. Her sons would work and take care of her. Her problem was not just an urgent issue; the ramifications were long-term. Elisha’s response was probably not what she was expecting. He asked her, “What do you have in your house?” And as she thought about it and looked around, she looked at the stuff and said that she had nothing. As she thought about it a little longer, she remember a little oil that she had left in a jug in the corner of the room. Elisha gave her instructions to go and get every jug and container that she could find from all of her neighbors and fill them with the oil. She and her sons were going to have to knock on their neighbors’ doors and ask for jugs that they did not have oil to fill. It was going to cost them something; they had to humble themselves and ask the people around them to join in the miracle. The widow was looking for an outside solution when God was going to use something she already had.  As she began to pour out of her supply, there was a miraculous increase. The more she poured, the more oil came. The miracle of multiplication came while she was doing. God had already equipped her to be part of the solution.

When all the containers were filled, and the oil stopped flowing, the widow was surrounded by jug after jug of oil. Her problem still wasn’t solved. What was she going to do with all of this oil? But as she came to Elisha one more time, he instructed the widow to sell the oil, pay her debts, and live on the rest. The conclusion seems like a very obvious solution, but it didn’t start there. It started with the widow acknowledging that a little oil is more than nothing when we place it in God’s hands.

We can easily discredit what God has given us as “nothing.” We look around at our talents, gifts, and resources, and think that God could never use that as part of our solution. We want an outside source. Sometimes we can cry out to God, begging Him to provide for our needs. And when we do, instead of working in the way we expect, He whispers to our hearts to use “that.” What? We look at “that” and say, “God, that is nothing.” Your “that” might represent your education, experience, a hobby, your ability to draw or tell stories. God can use anything to achieve His purpose and provision in our lives, but He will often use something we already have in our hand. For the widow, the miracle happened when she began to pour. There was action associated with her step of faith. If she had just stared at the empty jugs, then nothing would have changed. Elisha had instructed her to get many containers. Although we don’t know how many she and her sons gathered, would the oil have kept flowing if there were more containers? While it would be difficult to answer this question, there was a direct link between expectation and receiving. As we put feet to our faith, we set ourselves up to experience divine intervention. God sees your need, but He also sees what you have in your hand. He can use what you have today to multiply it for His glory and your good. How many “jugs” are you willing to gather? God allows us to play a role as He works in our lives. So gather all of the “jugs” and start pouring. The increase can come through your step of faith.

Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.