“What Hast Thou in the House?”

From the Christian Science Journal, Vol.66, page 337, by


“What hast thou in the house?” This was the startling question Elisha asked of the widow who had appealed to him for help when the creditor came to take her two sons as bondmen. Her answer (II Kings 4:2), “Not any thing save a pot of oil,” was not inspired by a knowledge of God’s omnipotence, of His infinite bounty and benevolence, or by the realization of an ever-present, loving Father-Mother, but by a sense of widowhood and by the belief that her source of supply was dependent upon provision in a personal way and had been severed.

Elisha, awake to the truth of God as Father, who satisfies all our needs, must have instantly recognized her limited material sense of possession of “a pot of oil” as a very finite conception of her abundant heavenly heritage, which seemed hidden by the material sense of lack, loss, poverty, and limitation. Elisha had made his inquiry doubtless hoping to awaken her to man’s rich endowment as a child of God. His work was to arouse her from her sense of widowhood, her sense of incompleteness, of separation from God, to the clear realization that because of God’s ever-presence the supply for every need was at hand.

When Elisha commanded the widow, “Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few,” he was breaking the extreme sense of lack, fear, self-pity, the personal sense of God and man, by awakening her to see beyond the finite sense to the glorious realization of spiritual being and supply. Regardless of the subtle arguments and disturbing pictures of poverty, loss, and distress, her ignorance of and blindness to spiritual reality were dissipated, and she evidently glimpsed something of God’s spiritual creation, existing in ever changeless harmony and affluence.

What must have been the thought of the widow when she was bidden to take the empty vessels and to borrow more empty vessels from her neighbors? Did she at once realize that she was to go into her house, her own consciousness, and “shut the door,” close her thought to all sense of widowhood, to all beliefs of loss, lack, incompleteness, and discouragement? For it was from her own little “pot of oil,” her understanding of God, that Elisha was expecting her to open wide the door to the unfoldment of God’s infinite presence, His love, protection, and care for His children.

In this experience, as in every experience, it is clearly shown that it is a quality of thought which needs to be healed; it is not a question of getting, obtaining or accumulating, but of knowing and accepting the divine facts of being. How grateful we are for the wonderful revelation given us by our beloved Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, whereby the mesmeric sense of lack can be dissipated and the understanding gained of man’s possession of the Mind which is God, the only Mind, our Mind. Mrs. Eddy’s inspired definition of oil as “heavenly inspiration” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p.592) sheds further light on the widow’s “pot of oil” and shows us that we too must pour out of this “heavenly inspiration” such joy, gratitude, and buoyancy as will enable us not only to see ourselves and our dear ones as held in the arms of the Most High, the infinite One, but to see our neighbors as God’s children, rich in His love, pure, peaceful, joyous, and free.

It is a material, personal sense of man from which we need to be saved, and the impersonal Christ, which our Leader defines as “the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” (ibid., p.583), is the Saviour from this devastating lie which is the source of all sickness and suffering.

One who was burdened and darkened by the belief in widowhood, by loss and utter futility, called upon a Christian Science practitioner for help. She had no money, she was hungry, and she would lose her living quarters if employment were not found very soon. There was a great sense of hardness and bitterness in her thought, so that the “pot of oil” which she possessed was very small. The practitioner, touched by her distress, felt impelled to help her financially, but she prayed earnestly that she should not be mesmerized by the picture and arguments of error and so hide the operation and law of divine Principle.

The patient was told that she needed to give, not just to get. Her answer was: “What have I to give? I have nothing but debts!” An effort was made to show her that if she had nothing to give, she could not expect to receive. She must realize that as God’s reflection she had much to share with others.

Then an accounting was taken of her debts. There were debts of gratitude for love received and not returned; for kind deeds from others not acknowledged or appreciated; there were debts of gratitude to God for life, for health, for intelligence, ability, alertness, and for courage, honesty, and kindness. It was brought to her attention that these qualities of God were hers to be acknowledged and accepted, and they must be actively expressed. If a water faucet is not used for a long time, the water in the pipes becomes stale and undesirable. The patient felt that she had lost the way; that it had become hidden in the debris of self-pity and ingratitude. But she was told to go forth, not as a human being seeking a position, but as the child of God desiring to give, to express the qualities of divine Mind in intelligence, honesty, alertness, kindliness, and love.

The woman went away feeling, That is easy for you to say, for you have so much and you do not understand my position! The practitioner, however, did understand the woman’s position as the child of God, ever loving, ever active, ever joyous, ever employed in expressing the qualities and attributes of divine Mind.

After leaving the practitioner and alighting from the car in the business district, the patient stood for a moment wondering where to go. At that moment she saw a woman of advanced years caught in the swirling traffic of the busy intersection, a look of terror on her face. She darted through the cars to the woman’s side and, taking her by the arm, assured her: “We are perfectly safe here. You need not be afraid.” The signal changed, and they crossed to safety. As she thanked her rescuer, the woman said, “You have saved my life.”

Something wonderful had happened to the patient. She had found a large vessel of oil in her house, her consciousness, for she was filled with a great surge of love and gratitude; she had been able to help someone. She walked across the street to a bank where two days before she had been refused a position. But it was a different woman, with a different voice, who asked for an opportunity to serve. This time she was given immediate employment.

Our progress, our surroundings, our daily affairs, are contingent upon the thoughts we accept and entertain as real. We must consistently and persistently associate, unite, ourselves with God, with infinite Mind, by expressing His qualities and accepting His thoughts. We need to declare, as did the Psalmist (Ps.90:1), “Lord, thou has been our dwelling place in all generations;” in other words, divine consciousness has been our dwelling place in all generations and will ever continue to be our eternal home, where God, divine Mind, is forever unfolding joy, supply, and heavenly inspiration.




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