Ecumenical Water Network

The EWN is a network of churches and Christian organizations promoting people's access to water around the world

You are here: Home / What we do / Seven Weeks for Water / Archive / 2009: Water and Justice / No one owns water, it is God's gift

No one owns water, it is God's gift

"So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (John 4: 5-10).

No one owns water, it is God's gift

Water is where the meeting in this story takes place. It has great attraction as a place of life and renewal in this dry land. The well where the water can be found is said to be Jacob's - perhaps a reference to the Old Testament patriarch, perhaps a reference to the owner of the plot who has commanded "powerless" slaves and servants to dig the well.

We meet a tired and thirsty Jesus attracted to the well for renewal of his life. He has sent his disciples to the city with money to buy food. He has no means of accessing the well's water but he knows he does not need money and that someone will be there to freely share the water with him.

The Samaritan woman comes as part of her usual routine: carrying out a typical gender role, drawing water to sustain her family. While she is part of the marginalized non-Jewish people (Samaritan) she is at the centre of contradiction: being discriminated against while also being the access point to drinking water. 

Jesus' request "Give me a drink" (7) calls for this woman to interrupt her household chore so as to offer this controversial Jewish man hospitality. Unlike the betrothal narratives of Isaac (Gen 24:10-61), Jacob (Gen 29:1-20) and Moses (Exod 2:15b-21), Jesus has not come to the well to look for a woman to be his bride. He is looking for a witness who will recognize him as the source of living and free flowing water, and bring the despised thirsty people to him. Following this life-changing conversation, the woman becomes an access point for both types of water.

We can learn from this story that water is life: important for renewal; needed by everyone, regardless of race, sex, age, ability or any other quality; a gift of God that should not be privatized and confined to the powerful so as to deprive the less powerful; and that like the Samaritan woman, each one of us should make sure that we work towards making physical and spiritual water accessible to all.

From Jesus we can learn that we should always dare to demand access to water and that we should engage in dialogue with both those who have accepted their positions of privilege as normal as well as those who accept their deprivation as normal. The Samaritan woman had an encounter with God, she realized that the real owner of water for life is God not Jacob. This life-changing encounter empowered her to go and tell her people: the God who created free flowing water is also their God. Just as God's Spirit cannot be confined to a few people only, water should not be confined to one particular well.

Let the water flow like God's Spirit, to give life and renewal to all as God wills it!

Fulata Moyo

Fulata Mbano-Moyo, a Malawian Reformed systematic theologian, is WCC's programme executive for women in church and society. Her PhD work is in the area of gender and sexual ethics.

Together we can make a difference…

While considerable progress has been made in extending access to water in recent years, the latest data show that 884 million people around the world still do not have access to safe water. Women bear the brunt of the burden where water has to be collected from far away water sources and when their children get sick or die from diseases caused by dirty water.

  • Help ease this burden by making a "just gift": give a friend or relative a jerry can, a well, or why not a toilet - given in their name to somebody who needs it for a better life.
  • Find out whether there are organizations in your own country that offer just gifts. Some participants of the Ecumenical Water Network like Church World Service (USA) and Christian World Service (New Zealand) offer the possibility of giving such a gift instead of an ordinary present, and you can find others by searching the internet for "Water and sanitation as a gift".

Photo: Walwyn

Posted By: Fulata Moyo on Mar 17, 2009 06:12PM