I am reminded today about the story of the Sunday school teacher who was carefully explaining the biblical account of Elijah the Prophet and the false prophets of Baal. She explained how Elijah built the altar, put wood upon it, cut the steer in pieces and laid it on the altar.
The teacher said: “And then Elijah commanded the people of God to fill four barrels of water and pour it over the altar. He had them do this four times.”
“Now,” said the teacher, “can anyone in the class tell me why the Lord would have Elijah pour water over the steer on the altar?”
A little girl in the back of the room raised her hand and said, “To make the gravy?”
I do not know about you, but ever since I came to Indiana I have developed a love for gravy with my meals. There is just something about the Midwest and gravy. There is also something important about the rich gravy in this text the Sunday school teacher was commenting on from 1 Kings 18:33. You might remember that Elisha, Elijah’s successor, did not want to let Elijah go. He followed him from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho, and to the Jordan with the words: “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”
Elisha makes a final request, that if he must let Elijah go, then there is only one thing he wants: “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit” [cf: 2 Kings 2:1-12].
Whenever the word ‘inheritance’ is summoned, it seems natural for lights to go off, for bells to ring, and for dollar signs to appear. We equate inheritance with money. And for many, the more money the better. But as a church leader, I am acutely aware of the fact that money is not a cure all. There are things that money will not buy.
When Donald Shriver, Jr., was President of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he was told by a major donor, “Remember, when you ask for money you are offering donors a privilege. You are offering them a chance to become part of something bigger than themselves, something more than their money can buy.”
There is a lot of truth in these remarks. We are often shy when talking about money, inheritance, or our accumulated possessions. Sometimes we lack the conviction to say to ourselves and to prospective donors, “My money and your money are useful for many reasons, but by giving you will be buying something that is priceless.” Between now and 2040, the present generation of Americans aged 50-75 years old will transfer an estimated 10 ½ trillion dollars to the next generation. Imagine how faith and giving might just transform the world as we know it.
Elisha could have responded to Elijah by asking to be made beneficiary of his estate. He could have reasoned that since Elijah was a wealthy and well-respected prophet who had ‘done well’ in his prophetic ministry, then a gift of his money would be sufficient. But such was not the case; Elisha asked to inherit a double share of Elijah’s spirit. Remember that our real inheritances are those that buy something that is priceless. In the church we offer folk a chance to become part of something bigger than themselves. And sometimes, the gifts come covered with gravy.
Gravy and Giving-ly yours,