2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” 3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
2 Kings 4:2-4 New International Version (NIV)
Right before Thanksgiving, I took some time away from a certain social media site. I had been spending a lot of time on there and what I was seeing was making me so negative that I was starting to dislike people that I’ve loved for years. People were being so hateful and I really didn’t want to see any more of it. It has always been very important to me to maintain contact with the people that God has placed in my life until He sees fit to remove them from my life or to remove me from their lives. I feel like it is our job to build relationships and to live out our purposes together for as long as it makes sense to do so. With that said, after a significant break, I’m now back on the site and hope to spend my time there encouraging others as much as possible. I’m hoping this post will help as well.
I was recently at a gathering of “friends,” co-workers to be exact. While I’m grateful that I’ve been able to meet and become friends with so many great people through work, sometimes I see a side of people that is just disheartening. We were playing our usual Christmas gift exchange game and basically, the strategy is that you open one of the gifts that are lined up on the table and if no one steals it from you, you get to keep it. It’s a white elephant gift exchange which means that you run the risk of getting things that you may not want. But that’s what makes it fun. We always have lots of fun playing the game, however, this time around I was struck by some comments that were made about a particular gift that was selected.
As the recipient opened up one of the more “ridiculous” gifts on the table, he revealed that one contained jewelry from a company that is well-known for helping women build their own business. This company is evidently looked upon by some as being tacky or trashy from the snickers and comments that were made as he held up the jewelry. Ordinarily, I would just shut these sorts of things out, however, I thought back to my adolescent years and much of my young adult life and remembered how my mother had sold this jewelry and products from this company year after year as a means of supporting us. I immediately felt bad for whoever had brought in the gift as I’m sure they were sitting there cringing and hoping that no one would connect them to this item. For the most part, no one knows who brought in a particular gift, so the giver can remain fairly anonymous.
That’s really the point. We don’t really know what a person has had to do to keep afloat. Some families go through hard times, but no one would ever guess that they are struggling because they have a person who is working their rear end off at one, two or even three jobs just so their family can appear to be as “normal” as everyone else’s. So, while it may have seemed like something to poke fun at to most of the people at the party, I’m sure there were more than a few of us whose mothers had worked doggedly through this very enterprise to be able to provide a few extras or maybe even the necessities for their families. Many times, the very thing we are belittling may have been the saving grace that someone was very fortunate to have had when the bills were due.
As a single mother, I’ve joined up with several different companies over the years to try and make extra money so that my daughter could have a couple more gifts around Christmas or so that I could make enough to cover emergencies when my day job wasn’t enough to make ends meet. I know so many wonderful people who hustle each and every day to sell their products. They set up their tables and they spend hours telling people what they are selling, in hopes of bringing home even an extra twenty dollars or so for the week. It’s hard work, often with very little reward. But it gives them something to shoot for. It gives them a sense of purpose and it can be the one thing they do in their life where they feel like they can develop an identity using the strengths and talents that God has given them. Once you find your particular niche, you can build some pretty substantial self-esteem through each sale you make.
In this holiday season, I encourage you to support local businesses and salespeople. Not only are you getting good stuff, you are making meaningful connections and helping someone to build a life. Of course not everyone who has a side business is struggling financially, but I believe they get more than just financial support from what they do. And wherever we can encourage one another, we should absolutely try.
Aside from that, be aware of the words you speak. Understand that what may seem funny or ridiculous to you, may be another person’s lifeline. The old saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” definitely rings true in situations like the one I was in recently. Even if I didn’t think much of the particular product, I knew that selling that product had often helped put food on our table. And my mother had never been too proud to go out and do the work in order to make sure her children were fed and clothed.
God works in mysterious ways. Just when you think you don’t have enough money to pay for that prescription or visit to the doctor, that’s when He comes through with an opportunity that nets you just enough to cover the expense. I can’t tell you how many times He has done this for me. If I hadn’t been willing to humble myself, I would have done without. Like the woman with the oil, in 2 Kings, gather what God has given you and have faith that He will show you how to use your resources to get what you need. Never let your pride dictate the lengths to which you are willing to go to do God’s will.
Sometimes, God’s will for you is simply that you take care of yourself and your children. And when the time comes, He’ll give you something else to do. And if you already have what you need, seek out ways to help others get what they need. Give opportunities where you can. It isn’t always about money. If there is a job that someone can do for you, hire them. If you are in a position to promote someone and they are qualified, promote them. If you can help them tell their story, help them. If you are able to heal them, heal them. Don’t be afraid to use your gifts to help someone find theirs.
Have a wonderful Christmas and prepare yourself for a year full of blessings. We have not been this way before, but if our eyes are on Him we are headed in the right direction.
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
Luke 3:10-12 New International Version (NIV)