An economics lesson from Elisha

When I consider news of recessions, lack of financial stability for families or countries, and job scarcity, I’m often sent back to the Old Testament, where I encounter one of the most effective economists the world has ever known. The biblical prophet Elisha left a record of healing work that provides us, to this day, permanent solutions that apply to worldwide and individual economic conditions.

In Second Kings, chapter 4, a widow approaches Elisha and explains that she has a large amount of debt, that she has not been able to restructure this debt (the current focus of many economic efforts worldwide), and that as a result, the bankers are going to take her two sons as collateral. The situation would take away her ability to secure income in the future, since her sons would not be earning wages for the household.

Elisha asks the widow a question that has brought a leavening spiritual perspective and healing to many households: “What hast thou in the house?” The widow names her most valuable asset: oil. (This was oil used for bodily ointment and possibly for burial purposes.) Elisha then instructs the widow to identify and focus on her most valuable asset, not on a garage sale of unwanted debris. The most valuable asset—one that would also be valued by others, restoring the perfect economic balance between supply and demand!

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