Christianity and Physical Preparedness

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I occasionally get e-mails from SurvivalBlog readers, asking about how I can justify active preparedness in light of my Christian faith. Some cite the “Lilies of the Field” passage in Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

In my view, people are misinterpreting these verses. These are verses about worry, not about work or preparedness. Never does the Bible teach that we should laze about and not provide for our families. Earning our daily bread is the Godly way to live. We are taught not to be lazy or dependent on others. Yes, we are to trust in God’s providence, but nowhere do the scriptures absolve us of the responsibility to work or to save up for lean times. Consider these four verses from the book of Proverbs:

He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment. Proverbs 12:11, NIV

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23, NIV

The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. Proverbs 21:25, NIV

The plans of the diligent surely lead to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty surely to poverty. Proverbs 21:5, NKJV

 

Food Storage

The Bible encourages storing food. Look at Gen. 41:47-49: “And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.” And then see Gen. 41:53-57: “And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the sevens years of dearth [drought] was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.
And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

The preceding is a good example that illustrates the need for food storage. As I write this in 2008, a growing portion of the world is already experiencing famine. You should recognize that famine could just a well come to stalk America, Europe, the British Isles, and Australia. (The areas with the largest SurvivalBlog readership.) It is prudent and Biblically supported to stock up during good times in anticipation of lean times.

Prov. 6:6-15: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a forward mouth. He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; Forwardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.”

The lessons from scripture are clear: Don’t be lazy and lax. Store up in good times for future lean times. Ponder this Old Testament passage: Psalm 34:9-10: “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” And then look at this New Testament passage:, from 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

One of the many names of God is Jehovah Jireh, which means God Who Provides. As I Christian, I believe that God will provide for his covenant people. I believe that one of the many gifts that the God has provided is a conviction, by the Holy Spirit, to be well prepared. I realize that we are only on Earth for about 80 trips around the sun, and that is just the twinkling of an eye versus eternity. Where we end up after this brief life is far, far more important in the grand scheme of things. We will spend eternity either in heaven or in hell. But how we spend our +/-80 year life on Earth is up to us. (And the most important thing that we do in the is life is make ourselves right with God, though his Grace, to accepting eternal life in heaven. But stepping back to this temporal world: The Bible makes it very clear that we are to be good stewards of the blessings that God provides us. I therefore feel strongly convicted to not just share the gospel of Christ, but also to physically prepare for my own family, and store extra to dispense as charity. The bottom line: I can’t continue to share the gospel if I starve to the point of achieving room temperature!

Self Defense
Other readers question how I can justify owning guns for self-defense. Some Mennonites, for example, eschew all means self defense and decry even the willingness to defend oneself or one’s loved ones. That, in my opinion is taking “turning the other cheek” (Luke 6:29) to an extreme that is not sculpturally founded.

Exodus 22:2 provides Biblical justification for killing someone if he intends to forcibly rob or kill another man: “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.” (Exodus 22:2 NIV)

And Jesus teaches that it is wise to be armed, in Luke 22:35-36: “Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’ ‘Nothing,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”

In an article titled: What Does The Bible Say About Gun Control? Larry Pratt keenly observed the difference between self-defense and vengeance:

Resisting an attack is not to be confused with taking vengeance which is the exclusive domain of God (Rom. 12:19). This has been delegated to the civil magistrate, who, as we read in Romans 13:4, “. . . is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Private vengeance means one would stalk down a criminal after one’s life is no longer in danger as opposed to defending oneself during an attack. It is this very point that has been confused by Christian pacifists who would take the passage in the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek (which prohibits private vengeance) into a command to falter before the wicked.

Let us consider also that the Sixth Commandment tells us: “Thou shall not murder.” In the chapters following, God gave to Moses many of the situations which require a death penalty. God clearly has not told us never to kill. He has told us not to murder, which means we are not to take an innocent life. Consider also that the civil magistrate is to be a terror to those who practice evil. This passage does not in any way imply that the role of law enforcement is to prevent crimes or to protect individuals from criminals. The magistrate is a minister to serve as “an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4).

Jesus taught both to turn the other cheek and to be well-armed to defend oneself. The important factor is having the wisdom to know when to employ either approach depending on the circumstances. I pray, for wisdom, discernment, and discretion, daily. I don’t seek out trouble, and in fact I have moved my family to a remote, lightly populated region in good part to avoid trouble. But if unavoidable trouble comes my way, I want to have the option of resisting force with force. And I only have that option if I am armed and trained.

Some critics of armed preparedness cite Matthew 26:52-54, which descries how Jesus responded when Peter cut off the ear of a s high priest’s servant, using a sword: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”

In context, Jesus is telling Peter that it would be suicidal to fight in that particular situation, since they were quite outnumbered. And of course Jesus knew it was in God’s plan for him to be arrested, tried, crucified, and resurrected. Jesus told Peter to put his sword in its place –which was back in his belt. Jesus was telling Peter in effect that “there is a time to fight, and this, my friend, isn’t it.” He didn’t command him to “throw that sword away”, or “surrender it”, or to “stop carrying it”. After all, according to Luke, Jesus had just recently ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason for the arms was obviously to protect their own lives when traveling–not to protect His own life, which He intended to sacrifice, to pay for our sins, once and for all.

The Old testament teaches both to be armed, and to be trained. We read in Psalm 144:1:

Blessed be the Lord my rock
Who trains my hands for war
And my fingers for battle.

Yes, as Christians our battles are mainly spiritual, but we must also be prepared to defend our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, against evildoers.

Charity

Charity–both in time of plenty and in times of disaster–is a Christian responsibility with its roots in the Old Testament tradition of Tzedaka. This responsibility–particularly for the support of widows and orphans–was repeated in the New Testament, such as in Acts 11:27-29: “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth [drought] throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea.”

The Biblical approach to survivalism is to avoid trouble, but to be ready for it nonetheless. And when trouble does come, have extra stores on hand, so that you can dispense copious charity. Give until it hurts!

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