To Give Away, or To Sell, Which Gets God’s Blessing?

To Give Away, or To Sell, Which Gets God’s Blessing?

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Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.
2 Kings 4:1-7


He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.
Proverbs 11:26


He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
Proverbs 11:28


Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
James 4:13-17

cash registerJust a few of the verses in Scripture on doing business, are found above. In the Torah, God even has regulations set down for how the price of goods should go up and down based on how well each prior year’s growing season went. (Leviticus 25:16) God speaks in Scripture about just weights and balances and not to defraud a brother.

I threw in the verse in Proverbs about trusting in one’s riches, because in many other places in Scripture, God warns His people not to forget Him when times are good. This is because when times are good, we as humans are prone to thinking we got ourselves to where we are, and we take pride in our accomplishments, which often involve how fat the bank account is, the house, or the vehicle in the driveway. We are to use the income God gives us to provide for our households, and also to provide for the needs of others that God brings our way. As Proverbs 11:16 puts it, providing for the needs of others can be done by selling our bounty to them, and that such an act of selling brings a blessing to the seller.  We see this displayed in the story of Joseph as he sold grain to all who asked during the seven years of famine.

Household financesGod isn’t against doing business with each other. He’s against hoarding and trusting in material wealth, and against ill-gotten wealth by questionable means. Some look at Jesus’ parable of the rich man making plans to build bigger barns, as proof that we shouldn’t set by for ourselves. But God has Joseph raised to second in command of all Egypt to encourage the people to fill graineries against the coming seven bad years of famine. The question to ask, to know which camp you fall into, is who you are setting by for! Why you are setting by. Paul says to Timothy: 

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timothy 5:8

So household provision is not wrong.

Today, we have strange ideas floating around about what constitutes setting by in case of emergency, and what constitutes hoarding. Before the days of refrigeration and industrialized food sales, you were considered wise to always have a year’s worth of food in storage in your root cellar. Today, even having 3 month’s worth of food set aside is considered hoarding by some I have talked to.

Many believers today have strange ideas of God’s provision and doing business with fellow believers. They somehow feel that selling what God has given them is wrong, in spite of Scripture’s admonitions on how to wisely engage in business with each other. The example of the woman and the oil above, shows God miraculously providing enough oil to fill every vessel she and her sons scrounged up. She is then told to sell that oil, pay her debts, and live on the remainder.

amphoraDid she buy that oil? No. God provided it to her free of charge. But she was expected to sell it to cover her debts. I’ve been told directly by more than one person over the years, that what God provided for free, we have no right to sell. If this was true, examples in Scripture of the opposite would not be there for our education and training.

In the woman with the oil example, the oil stopped flowing when the last container was filled. As long as there were containers to fill, God kept the oil flowing. The level of blessing she was to receive was directly tied to her efforts at gathering jars. This is a clear case of God’s blessings being disguised in overalls. Her obedience, and dare I say, her level of obedience to God’s directive opened the gates of God’s blessings to enter her home and into those jars. But that was only step one. When she ran out of jars, now she was to go and sell that oil! She could have chosen to keep it all to herself, but God’s second directive to her was to sell the oil He had freely given her. Again, her obedience would unlock the ability to pay her debts and live off the remainder.

Some say the concept of asking God for help paying off debts is selfish and misplaced. That it is “asking amiss that you may spend it on your own foolish lusts”. On the one hand, we are told to be debtors to no man, save to love one another. But there too, God gives directives in Scripture around the handling of debts between people. The ideal situation is to never need those directives, but God knew that sinful humanity being what it was, that debt would happen. Did God judge the woman for crying out to Elisha for help with her household debt? No! Instead, He gave her two directives that if obeyed, would get her out of debt.

God asks us to bless others with the blessings He has given us. Both the seller and the alms giver receive blessing for passing on to others what they have been blessed with.

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