God's Promise or Two Sticks?
ONE often yearns to have faith in God's provision for mankind. But there is so much evidence of poverty and neglect in the world. And so many theories about them. A nineteenth-century preacher, for example, used to quote a verse from Psalms, ``I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.''1 Perhaps as a reassurance to himself, he would often offer a five-dollar gold piece to any beggar who could furnish evidence that he was a beggar and also righteous. The story is that he never had a taker.
The theory that anyone is unworthy of his creator's care and love -- that those in need somehow ``deserve it'' -- would deny the very spiritual nature of man as God's child. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, was inspired by her understanding of God to write of Him: ``He sustains my individuality. Nay, more -- He is my individuality and my Life.''2
Faith, broadened to spiritual understanding, takes the issue of sustenance beyond the question of worthiness and unworthiness, to the assurance that God, infinite good, always sustains His creation. To think He is incapable of doing so denies omnipotence. To think He wouldn't choose to do so denies the very nature of God as Love. On the other hand, to reason that an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God is the creator of man enables one to understand that the spiritual, real man is never outside His care.
This is the spiritual truth on which a reliable faith in God's power and willingness to care for his creation is built. This true understanding of God and man provides guidance for meeting mankind's needs.
Take the prophet Elijah, for example.3 ``Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee'' was the promise he heard from God. So he went to Zarephath. The woman commanded to sustain him was out gathering sticks. She was, she confessed, ``gathering two sticks'' to cook something ``for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.''
Was Elijah going to believe God's promise of sustenance or the evidence of lack, graphically presented by the two sticks? Faith in God made -- and makes -- the difference. According to Scripture, Elijah and the widow woman with her household were provided for by God, and they ``did eat many days.''
Often, as in Elijah's case, resources do not come from the obvious. I remember a time when my husband and I needed money for a special project. It happened that a wealthy relative was coming to visit us. I remember thinking how fortuitous, for she would be likely to give us the money. As it turned out, however, we didn't rely on her, but on our growing understanding of God's goodness and His constant care. A bank loan provided the money we needed and a good credit rating as well.
Now, the lesson we learned was not about praying and getting money problems resolved. It was about praying and being guided, assured that a step taken as a result of prayer has everything needed to sustain it. The key, of course, is to commit one's life to serving God, Spirit. And when we think about it, why would one want to serve anything else, since God's promises are always kept?
1Psalms 37:25. 2Unity of Good, p. 48. 3See I Kings 17:8-16.