Empty Pitchers (The Value of Little Bits)

The widowed mother of two young boys stood in the center of her home and looked around it with a heart full of hopelessness.

There was nothing left.  There was nothing more that she could do.

It wasn’t long after the death of her husband that the creditor had come the first time to collect the payment owing on the loan her husband had taken out.  Since that time she had sold everything of value in the house to try to pay the loan that was now her responsibility.

But, she couldn’t.

The debt was too big.

There was too much money owing.

There was nothing else she could do.

Now, the creditor was coming to take her two beloved sons away.  They were going become slaves.

The younger of the two clung to her knees.  Looking up at her, he cried out, “Mommy, we don’t want to go away!”

Her heart wept tears of frustration.  Of pain.  Of defeat.  She didn’t know what to say.  She had no words of hope left to give.  Kneeling down, she gathered both of them into her arms and hugged them close.  If only the power of her love was enough to keep them together.

But, it wasn’t.

“Oh, Father God!  Won’t You help us?” she cried out in desperation as her strength gave out.  Tears began to spill down her face.  She had tried to be strong for her boys, but nothing she had tried was enough.

Her heart was broken.

And then, an ember…an idea…one name…came to her mind.


The man of God.

Maybe he could help her.

She brushed back the tears from her face and looked into the worried eyes of her sons.  “Come!” she said, “There is someone we must go see!” Standing up, she took a firm grip of her sons’ hands in her own.  She was not leaving them here alone while she went to see Elisha.  The creditor might come and take them before she got back.

They hastened out the door and down the dirt street.  She caught glimpses of the faces of her neighbors as they hurried down the street.  Many knew of her situation, but there was not a lot they could do to help.

Her debt was just too big.

As she approached the house of Elisha that ember began to flicker with a flame of hope.  Surely the man of God would know what to do.

Letting go of one of her son’s silent grip, she raised her hand and knocked on the door.

It opened.

When she saw Elisha standing there, she cried out, “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, “How can I help you?  What do you have of value in her home?”

“Your servant has nothing of value,” she replied, shaking her head.  But then she remembered, there was one little bit of oil left. “I have nothing left except for a little oil.”

Elisha looked down at her two boys and then back at her.  He smiled and said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty pitchers.  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.”

The widow and her sons left Elisha standing in the doorway of his house.  They hurried back to their own home and began going from door to door asking their neighbors for any empty pitchers they might have.  Their friends gladly gave them their empty pitchers.  Soon the widow’s house was filled with pitchers of all sizes.

She closed the door, and began to fill the the pitchers.  Round ones.  Skinny ones.  Tall ones.  Short ones.  As each one was full, her sons would pull it out of the way and bring her another.

And she kept pouring.

Somehow her little bit of oil wasn’t running out!

When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.”

And with those words the oil stopped flowing.

The widow looked around her house.  Every empty pitcher her friends and neighbors had been able to share with them was full.

Now what?

Once again, taking the hands of her boys she hastened out the door and when back to Elisha.  She told him what had happened.

Elisha smiled.  “Now go and sell the oil and pay your debts.  You and your sons can live on what is left.”

Rejoicing, the widow and her two sons returned to their home.  Not only was there enough oil to pay their debt, but there would be enough money from the sale of the oil to live on.  Truly God was a God of compassion and a God who supplied for every need – both now and in the future.

As the widow stepped through the door of her house once again, she looked around at all the pitchers full of oil.  She was going to have a story to share with her neighbors…

For every empty pitcher that they had shared with her was an important part of her redemption story.

Every empty pitcher had a role to play in the rescue of her sons from the creditor.

Every empty pitcher, while by itself might have seemed like just a little bit, was part of God’s good plan to give her and her sons a hope and a future.

(From 2. Kings 4:1 – 7)