Letter 32

DAY 32

Stephen Breck Reid

Professor of Christian Scriptures
George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University
February 20, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

As you repair the breach of trust and heal the wounds of our community, the Hebrew prophetic traditions encourage you to forego the talk of scarcity that often accompanies calls for renewal. The biblical story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 illuminates the challenge before you all.

“…generosity is key to getting through a drought—or a pandemic.”

Elijah ministered during a time of drought and political conflict, so he knew about scarcity. After announcing to King Ahab that God was sending a drought, God sent Elijah to an impoverished widow in Zarephath. “Bring me a little water…Bring me a morsel of food,” Elijah said to the widow, who might as well have responded: “You must be kidding.” Elijah replied: “Do not be afraid…first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: ‘The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” Elijah had to reassure the widow that her experience of real scarcity, risk, and vulnerability did not subvert the generosity of God. This story reminds us that generosity is key to getting through a drought—or a pandemic.

Today wealthy Americans sing songs of scarcity to one another and to middle class and poor Americans. The lyrics run like this: We do not have enough jobs to allow immigrants. We do not have enough wealth for adequate wages, healthcare for all, or decent housing. The current pandemic has unmasked disparities that only generosity can assuage.

Mr. President, Madame Vice President and members of Congress, you must focus on feeding the “least of these” (Matthew 25:45) instead of acquiescing to the self-interest of groups that benefit from and contribute to the broadened disparity in the U.S.

In this time of pandemic and panic that sings a song of scarcity, I encourage you to sing a song of God’s promise and generosity that will see us through this drought.


Stephen Breck Reid

Rev. Stephen Breck Reid, Ph.D.
Professor of Christian Scriptures
George W. Truett Theological Seminary/ Baylor University

the author

Stephen Breck Reid, Professor of Christian Scriptures at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, is ordained in the Church of the Brethren. With a Ph.D. from Emory University, he has written numerous books and articles, including Psalms and Practice: Worship, Virtue and Authority (Liturgical Press, 2001), Experience and Traditions: A Primer in Black Biblical Hermeneutics (Abingdon, 1991), articles on “The Psalms” and “Prophet” in the Oxford Bibliographies Biblical Studies, and on African American interpretation of the Book of Deuteronomy in the Oxford Handbook of the Book of Deuteronomy (Oxford Press).