After creating the world, God did not abandon it to a hopeless future. God is in the world he created. The reason why the world continues to have being is that God is in the world to sustain it, and to care for it. He is, therefore, the great Creator and the great Provider. Divine Providence is a clear sign of God’s faithfulness. Throughout the Sacred Scriptures there is abundant evidence of God’s providential love. No one can outdo God in love. Jesus’ own human presence among us was a presence of providence. He revealed himself to us as the face of Divine Providence. In the Sermon on the Mount, he did not hesitate to warn against “worries and anxieties” about tomorrow, about what to eat or drink. The salvation Christ brought was therefore an invitation to trust completely in God’s ability and readiness to care for all our needs (our spiritual needs, material needs, health needs, emotional needs, financial needs, and so forth).
Christ has revealed himself as the ultimate answer to every human need. In every situation we find ourselves, no matter how hopeless it may seem, God has made provision for our ultimate welfare and salvation. Because God cares for us, no one has the right to give up. Made in the image and likeness of God, every human person is called, in some way, to be a co-provider with God. This implies that God is the “Provider-In-Chief” and we are his designated “ministers of Divine Providence”, through whom he actively takes care of creation. In other words, every human person is supposed to be “God’s minister of care”.
The Book of First Kings (17:1-16) tells the story of how God provided for the needs of his prophet Elijah (and the widow from Zarephath). Elijah had become the victim of his own prophecy about the impending drought. But the Lord made provision for him by commanding ravens to bring him food (1kgs 17:4-6). After some time, the Sacred Writer narrates, the stream from which Elijah drunk became dry. And this is where we get to the core of our message today. 1Kings 17:7-9 reads: “After some time, however, the brook ran dry, because no rain had fallen in the land. So the LORD said to him: “Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” This sounds shocking. If God wanted someone to help Elijah, one would have thought that the natural thing would be to direct him to a “rich” person. Instead Elijah is directed to the most unlikely source for help. Two lessons seem to be involved here. First, this is to show that God’s providential care can manifest itself in unexpected ways. Second, we are led to understand that every person (even a poor widow) is “designated” by God to show care and share. No one is too poor to share. No one is too poor to give. We do not need to have much to love much. We do not need to be rich in order to share what we have. Every person has been “designated” by God to provide for somebody. The widow apparently had no idea that God had designated her to provide for the man of God. So it is with us. We may not receive any explicit revelation asking us to provide for somebody in our lives.
Now, this may seem too idealistic. But, come to think of it. When we provide for others, God provides for us. We provide for others believing that God has made provision for us too. Sometimes, it requires real heroic effort (faith) to act like the widow of Zarephat. To provide for others is to show your faith in a provident God. Without her knowing, the widow had been designated by God to provide for Elijah. Similarly, without our knowing, the Lord has designated us to give, share and provide. Everyone has a mandate to give irrespective of their social or economic status. No one is excused from the call to give. There is always something we can share. It may be money, food, clothing, time, joy, faith, skills, ideas, knowledge, hope and so forth. In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praises the generosity of that widow who gave her “entire livelihood” for the temple treasury. Here too, like in the case of the first widow, we notice that Jesus does not attempt to excuse the poor widow. Rather, he confirms and praises her act of faith. When it comes to giving God seems reluctant to excuse anybody, because giving reflects the character of God. In other words, giving is godly. And not only is giving godly, it is always rewarding; for God always rewards deeds of faith and deeds of trust. What would make someone put his entire livelihood in the “collection bowl”? It defies human logic to think that one would go that far with giving. For a pious Jew (and by extension for a Christian) only one word comes to mind: trust, trust in the providential care of God; trust in the promises of God which never fail. Again, only people who believe they are “designated” by God to give would show such trust. To trust much means to give much; and to give much means to trust much.
One does not have to be rich (whatever we define rich to mean) in order to be designated by God to provide for others. No special qualification is needs. You just have to accept the call. The Lord Jesus gave his life to save us, and in so doing became the great “Designated Provider” who cares for us. Christ’s death was a profound act of trust on his part, in the faithfulness of his Father who was able to save him from the power of death (cf. Heb 5:7). In order to be like Christ and the two widows, let us humbly but confidently ask the Father to increase our faith and trust. With deeper faith and trust in the God’s promises we can embrace the call to be true “designated providers”. Amen.
Invitation to pray:
Father in heaven, may your name be forever praised! In your mercy, cleanse me from every sin, especially the times I have failed to show care to others. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit. I ask you to increase my faith and trust in your promises. You have designated me to provide for others. Lord, provide for me, that I may provide for them. Amen!