Monday, March 9, 2015

What the Rabbi Told Me

Second Kings Chapter 4:

1 A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.”
2 So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”
3 Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few.
4 And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”
5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out.
6 Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel. ”And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased.
7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”

Sometimes I come across something that is so good that I just have to share it. In retirement I have developed a little ritual. Every morning, along with my coffee, I watch something educational or inspirational on Youtube. A couple of days ago I discovered Rabbi Manis Friedman speaking on the subject of financial abundance at a luncheon meeting for Jewish businessmen and businesswomen. This is less than half of what he had to say, filtered and reorganized through my mind and experiences for a blog post.

The story of Elisha and the widow is not one frequently heard in the churches I have attended, although that is probably a mistake. A widow, deeply in debt is about to loose her two sons to her creditors. Elisha asked this impoverished desperate woman an interesting question, “Tell me what you have in your house?” Why on earth would he ask her a question like that? If she owned anything worth mentioning she wouldn’t be attempting to guilt manipulate the prophet in her moment of hopeless misery.

The Rabbi teaches there are three parts to finding financial abundance, whatever that phrase might mean to you. The first part is effort. God can’t bless you until you create a vessel to contain the blessing. That is your part of the partnership. The Rabbi warns his audience, “Don’t count on miracles.” Hard work, education, integrity are all part of your vessel. If you want a bigger blessing, create a bigger vessel for God to fill or in the case of the widow borrow as many vessels as you can find.

The widow exhibited the second part to finding financial abundance when she obeyed the prophet. A farmer exhibits the same kind of faith when he plants a seed. Without the rain the seed will not grow. The farmer is capable of planting a seed, but he must have faith that God will bring the rain in due season. The farmer isn’t in control of the rain. The farmer understands that ultimately he isn’t in control of anything. He can’t push a button and get a goodie from God. The blessings of God do not fall out of a cause and effect vending machine. Instead, they come out of a relationship. Think about your relationship with your husband or wife. Can you pull a lever and automatically get what you want out of your spouse?

This is where faith blends into the third component, trust. God is going to do what God is going to do. I have even less control over my creator than I have over my wife. Yet, I trust my wife has my best interests in her heart and that ultimately in her own time and way will respond to my efforts. If I can trust my wife, why shouldn’t I trust the God who created this world and everything in it? I made the decisions that have shaped my life, not God. Creating the vessel was my free will role in my partnership with God. The Rabbi believes that God will always richly respond to your efforts; not necessarily in the way you expect, but he is confident that none of your efforts are ever wasted. You may not need to chase down your blessing. Perhaps it is off on a side trail. Perhaps it is behind you. In that case perhaps you just need to stand still and let the blessing catch you. God isn’t limited by your plans. He might have something better.

Finally, the widow asks her son for another vessel to hold her blessing. Why? The oil is still flowing. When her son responds, “There is not another vessel.” The blessing ends. The Rabbi teaches that we should never say that we have no more room in our life for God’s blessings. The day we state we have gone as far in life as possible, it is a certainty we won’t go any further.

Interestingly, the Rabbi believes God wants all of his created beings to live a life of abundance; not as an end it itself, but as a beginning of a cycle of blessing and generosity. He believes that God wants you to be successful even more than you want to be successful. After all, the Rabbi reasons, it is his world not your world. You and I are only here on this world for a very short time. He notes, “But God is stuck with it.” Why wouldn’t he want his creation to be a success? The Rabbi sincerely believes that God really loves this world and the children who inhabit it. As a Christian, I wish the Rabbi will come to understand just how much God loves his world.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life,” but then that would be my sermon to the Rabbi. This blog post is his sermon to us.

The original video from Youtube:

Financial Abundance

No comments:

Post a Comment