Cyprian of Carthage: No hesitation or preference

Home » Meditations » Meditations » Cyprian of Carthage: No hesitation or preference

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” 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.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 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.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” 2 Kings 4:1-7

“Thus that widow in the book of Kings, when in the drought and famine, having consumed everything, she had made of the little meal and oil which was left, a cake upon the ashes, and, having used this, was about to die with her children, Elisha came and asked that something should first be given him to eat, and then of what remained that she and her children should eat. Nor did she hesitate to obey; nor did the mother prefer her children to Elisha in her hunger and poverty. Yea, there is done in God’s sight a thing that pleases God: promptly and liberally is presented what is asked for. Neither is it a portion out of abundance, but the whole out of a little, that is given, and another is fed before her hungry children; nor in penury and want is food thought of before mercy; so that while in a saving work the life according to the flesh is contemned, the soul according to the spirit is preserved.

Therefore Elisha, being the type of Christ, and showing that according to His mercy He returns to each their reward, answered and said: “Thus saith the Lord, The vessel of meal shall not fail, and the cruse of oil shall not be diminished, until the day that the Lord giveth rain upon the earth.” According to her faith in the divine promise, those things which she gave were multiplied and heaped up to the widow; and her righteous works and deserts of mercy taking augmentations and increase, the vessels of meal and oil were filled. Nor did the mother take away from her children what she gave to Elisha, but rather she conferred upon her children what she did kindly and piously. And she did not as yet know Christ; she had not yet heard His precepts; she did not, as redeemed by His cross and passion, repay meat and drink for His blood. So that from this it may appear how much he sins in the Church, who, preferring himself and his children to Christ, preserves his wealth, and does not share an abundant estate with the poverty of the needy.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8. On Works and Alms, 17.

This may be a long post and may employ somewhat archaic English but don’t miss the powerful message. The widow did not do two things we also must not do.

Firstly, she did not hesitate. In our generosity to God’s work, we must not hesitate. Not for a minute. When God whispers, nudges, moves us to give, or puts opportunities before us to deploy His resources, we must not hesitate.

Secondly, she gave no preference. This may even offend some people. But hear this. We must put God ahead of our family. God will also call us to care for our family but we must never say family first but rather God first in all things.

If we do not hesitate and show no preference, God will look after us and our families like he did look after the widow. This is what Christ will do for us.

Our role is to live, give, serve, and love with no hesitation and no preference trusting Christ to care for us and our families better than we can. Let’s do this.

And pray for God’s blessing today on the Stations of Generosity Youth event serving the young people of Cayman Islands. Thanks. We pray a movement starts here from their radical obedience.