2 Kings 4: 8-16 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”
One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.” Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”
Paying it forward was an oft-repeated statement just a few years back. To ask someone to pay it forward was to request that instead of repaying oneself for a gift or loan, the debtor would do something nice for someone else. It is a humbling event, for in giving, rather than waiting to receive, we demonstrate that we know that the blessings that we have received don’t come because we are so special.
The story of the Shunammite woman’s generosity towards the prophet Elisha has always fascinated me, mainly because this well-to-do woman didn’t have to supply a place for Elisha and his servant, Gehazi, to stay. But, in her gratefulness for God’s favor on her life, she felt to pay it forward by supplying for the holy man of God a small room where he could lay his weary body on his trips.
She supplied him with a bed for resting and sleeping, a table to eat on, and a chair and lamp to use for studying or reading. Elisha didn’t act as though these gifts were his due or that he was entitled to them as a servant of God. Instead, he understood that she had went to a lot of trouble for them, and that she didn’t have to do so.
So Elisha sought to give something back to her, a gift that demonstrated his thankfulness. What do you give to a woman who has a good life and is content with her life? Gehazi knew that a barren woman, even a well-to-do one, was looked down upon in their culture, so he told Elisha that she needed a son, because her husband was old and when he died, she would be left alone with no male for support. Elisha promiseld her that she would have a son within the year, and she did!
It is so easy to think that we are deserving of the blessings that the Lord bestows on us, or that in some way we have earned them because we are such good people. Both attitudes constitute wrong thinking. When we have been blessed to have much, we are expected to pay it forward by blessing others, for Luke 12:48 admonishes us, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”
In these days when so many have lost their jobs or businesses or have had their hours cut, those of us who are blessed to still earn a living or, in my case, receive a pension, are obligated to help when we can. We pay it forward, because we know that we can never repay God for His goodness and mercy that follows us every day of our lives. We give because we have received, making it possible for those less fortunate to see the love of God through us.