Compassion Before Commands

“‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’ Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.’”

– 1 Kings 17:12,13

When Eljah arrived in Sidon after fleeing Israel to escape the draught, he met a widow. Though she was young and beautiful, her face was thin and gaunt and it was likely very clear that she hadn’t eaten for awhile. In spite of her appearance, the prophet approached her and asked her to bring him some water. Although he was a foreigner, she was happy to help him, but as she was on her way to fetch something for him to drink, he asked her for a piece of bread as well. At this, she turned around and explained that she didn’t have any bread, only a small amount of oil and some flour. Her plan was to go home, make whatever meal she could with what she had left to feed her and her son, and after that, they would both starve to death. Upon hearing this, Elijah had compassion on her and told her not to be afraid; in other words, he comforted her. Before he gave her a direction or a command, he felt into her plight and showed her the heart of his loving God. Only after offering consolation did he give her a course of action. 

My friend, there’s a powerful lesson to be learned in this small line of text from 1 Kings. Like Elijah, the most impactful way to show someone the heart of your amazing Lord is to have compassion on them. Being a source of assurance in the midst of trying times will soften a person in a way that prepares them to step out in faith and take the action needed to heal. A reversal in circumstance is always preceded by the movement of change, but that motion is prompted and made possible through the empathy of others. If you want to be more like Jesus, listen and comfort before offering advice. Let compassion come before commands and the glory of God will be poured out as a result!


Jesus, make me a person who offers grace and compassion before giving advice or direction.


Why do you think empathy and understanding should precede commands?

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