Mother’s Day began with one woman who didn’t want to forget her deceased mother. She established a habit of putting flowers on her mother’s grave, and it spread to her church, where she gave carnations (her mother’s favorite flower), to each member in memory of her mother. Now, we celebrate Mother’s Day, the second Sunday of May, everywhere.
The story of the widow in II Kings (4:1-7) is a beautiful story of a mother who knew the cost of the oil. We all know in most cases that a mother’s love is priceless. There isn’t anything a good mother wouldn’t do for her child, and that includes dying for them.
Many suffer on this day because they had bad mothers, or perhaps they didn’t get to know their mothers, or for other reasons. But in most cases, no good mother wants to see her child struggling.
The widow in II Kings is a destitute mother with nothing but a jar of olive oil, which can be used for cooking, fuel and healing. She has no husband, no income, no food and no job prospects, with two sons to raise. The prophet Elisha (II Kings 4:3) tells her to, “Go to your neighbors and gather as many empty jars as you can find, and not just a few.”
He also gives her specific instructions about pouring the oil behind closed doors, one jar at a time. She immediately does what she is told. Both instructions are designed to test her faith. The size of her blessing comes, therefore, in proportion to her ability to trust and to follow instructions.
Many of us block our blessings because we don’t trust and won’t follow God’s instructions.
There is an “economics of common sense,’’ and then there is an “economics of love.’’
The “economics of common sense’’ says that there will not be enough oil, and that the widow will run out before even one jar is filled.
Sometimes, knowing the cost of the oil creates an attitude of scarcity, and not one of faithful abundance. The “economics of love,’’ however, tells us to trust the man of God, show faith, and let your sons watch your example.
There is something special in God’s eyes about “nothingness.” It seems to move God’s hands in our favor. God loves leading us to those empty places where we can learn to lean only on Him to provide.
Mary of Bethany, in John (12:3) anoints Jesus with priceless spikenard oil. Judas, John (12:5) a disciple said, “You should have sold it and given the money to the poor, because it was worth a year’s wage.”
The oil and the translucent alabaster jar in which it came were imported from the mountains of India. The cost of the perfume then was 300 Denari. In today’s dollars, it would be worth $35,000. Indeed it would still be a year’s wage for many of us.
Yet the “economics of common sense’’ often fails us. Many often don’t understand the “economics of love.’’ Their view is like that of Judas:
“What a waste.” But a good mother’s view is like that of Mary’s, who believes in the “economics of love.’’
Where some would say, “What a waste,” Mary said, “What a moment.”
While it is difficult to do, we should not be concerned about the cost of the oil. Sometimes we must employ “the economics of love.’’ There are times when we must use the “economics of love,’’ because the moment to show love will never come back again. Then, we can look back on such moments and say, “What a moment.” To do otherwise often leaves us instead with a memory that says, “What a wasted moment.”
Both Mary of Bethany and the widow emptied their jars, showing faith in God to provide, and showing love for those whom God placed in their care. Both knew “what a moment,” and employed the “economics of love,’’ not the “economics of common sense.’’
Like good mothers, their love and willingness to empty their oil was a gift from God and to those they loved, for they both truly knew “the cost of the oil.’’
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.