Ruth and Parables: Small Group Leaders Guide Week 7

Small Group Study / Produced by Individual TOW Project member
Discussion group

This content is part of the Ruth and Parables curriculum, an 11-week integrated sermon and small group series on faith and work.

Topic 1 – Everyone in this city is desperately looking for traction

Dave’s sermon used the image of gears not meshing. The outer gear is the great thing you think you need to have abundant life: a steady job, money in the bank, a book deal, getting married, finding the right church, meeting a celebrity who will read your script. The inner gear is yourself. No matter how hard you try—how hard you spin your inner gear—it doesn’t seem to engage the outer gear. Your inner gear is too tiny, and the outer gear is too big. You can’t get traction.


  1. What is your outer gear at the moment? What is the big thing that if you get it, you’ll be set?
  2. What is your inner gear? What do you keep doing to engage the big thing you’re looking for?
  3. Are you getting traction? Do you feel that you’re living an abundant life, or does life seem to be slipping by you?

Read 2 Kings 4:1-7 (TNIV)

1 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."

2 Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
"Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little olive oil."

3 Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."

5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."

Read Matthew 14:14–20 (NRSV)

When it was evening, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.

Topic 2 – Not quite nothing

Dave told the story of couple who were so poor they said they could not afford to spend $1.25 on a cup of coffee to share on a date. Could they actually be so poor that they could not spend $1.25 on their date night? Or could there be a spirit of poverty that was making them feel poorer than they really were?

Dave’s friend Richard said, “One hundred percent of the people who think they have no traction actually have traction.” It could be a roof over your head today (even if you’re not sure about tomorrow), friends, something to eat for lunch, education, a church where somebody knows you. If you have a really tiny inner gear, it’s still a real gear, isn’t it?

The widow of the prophet told Elisha that she had nothing. But the spirit of poverty somehow lost its grip on her. She went on, “except a little olive oil.” Not quite nothing, after all. Jesus disciples also began in the claws of the spirit of poverty. “We have nothing here…,” they said. But they went on “… except five loaves and two fish.” Both stories start with so little it almost seems like nothing. Both end with abundance. The widow’s oil fills every jar she can find in her neighborhood—enough to sell and get out of debt. The disciples’ five loaves and two fish feed 5000 people and more. Almost nothing is not nothing.


  1. What feels too small about your inner gear; what about your situation or yourself feels incapable of engaging abundant life?
  2. What do you have that is more than nothing? Are you using it to the full? Are you conserving it in case things get worse? Are you afraid to put it to use at all? How close or far do you think you might be from the spirit of poverty?
  3. Are these two passages the prophet’s widow and the feeding of the 5000 about believing in miracles? Are they about bringing God whatever is tiny and expecting it to be filled? Where are you in each story?

Topic 3 – Tips

Dave gave two tips:

  • When you get up in the morning, be still for a moment to appreciate whatever you have. Maybe you are warm and dry and there is a good prospect of having breakfast. Possibly other people who love you are nearby. Perhaps, if nothing else, waking up in the morning is its own kind of awesomeness.
  • Ask God to open your heart to the traction in your life, however tiny or large. Then ask God to help you celebrate that traction.


  1. Remember the actual moment of getting up today. What was it like, physically, mentally, emotionally? Did you have any traction at that moment?
  2. What could you ask God to help you celebrate when you wake up tomorrow? Is there any way doing so would make a difference in what happens the rest of the day?