Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Image from Mind Coach
And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.
— 2 Kings 4:2-4
The miracle described here is a prototype for the miracle of loaves and fishes featured prominently in the New Testament, one of very few events described in all four canonical gospels.1 In both stories it seems that food has been manifested out of thin air, and while that is certainly a valid understanding when we consider a miracle to be a form of magic, there are other ways to consider miracles.
In the loaves and fishes story it is reasonable to assume that many of the five thousand had their own food, hidden beneath their cloaks, but with no intent to share it. Jesus and his disciples, modelling generosity and the sharing of what little they had inspired others to do likewise. What started as an imbalance (some with food, many without) became a festival of egalitarianism, a community supper, with hearts uplifted and the spirit of love and generosity spreading throughout the crowd. Scarcity was reframed as abundance. To me, this is a greater miracle by far than any conjuring trick.
In a similar way perhaps the widow's oil was there all along too. The scripture only mentions a pot of oil with no description of its size. It could be that it had simply not occurred to the woman that oil was a form of currency, and given her distressed state this seems quite likely. Elisha, like a good solution-focused therapist, helped her draw on her own resources to solve her problem. Again, such an act of reframing, bringing hope where before there was only despair, is a different kind of miracle, and to me at least, a more meaningful one.
1 Mark 6:35-39, Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-15