Before we get into this, a few folks may ask “Why prepare? God will take care of us.” If one wants to approach preparedness from a scriptural point of view, consider history when the Pharaoh of Egypt dreamed there would be seven plentiful years followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh was instructed to store corn “that the land perish not through famine.” The Pharaoh was told by God, through Joseph, to set food aside. In the Gospel books Matthew, Mark and Luke we see famine is once again predicted. If we follow God’s previous instructions, perhaps it is time to set aside some provisions again.
We need to prepare both spiritually and physically for potential upheavals. There are those who have been rather vocal and strident, who believe that the only necessary preparation is spiritual – that anything else demonstrates a lack of faith. For the most part, these are not bad people. I believe that they are misinformed, and that they misinterpret the Scripture. They cite such Scripture as the following:
Matt. 6: 19 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth…” They argue that preparing is contrary to Jesus’ teaching. No one is suggesting that the food we save to keep body and soul together is a “treasure,” or that we let it become an idol. We don’t consider the food that we stock in our pantry for 2 weeks a “treasure.” Nor do we hold it up idolatrously. It’s just stuff we need. The same is true for larger amounts for longer times.
Matt.6: 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” The “worry” referred to here is an all consuming preoccupation, and fear of want – that you won’t have enough. It also denies that God is faithful and will provide for His own. But, simply preparing for the normal necessities of life hardly constitutes “worry” in this sense. We are not to wring our hands, get all worked up about it and drive everyone into a panic.
Matt. 6: 26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” But Jesus didn’t say the birds don’t work. Anyone who has watched a sparrow build a nest and feed itself and its young knows that it does indeed work. Birds, however, do not worry. They aren’t anxious. They just do what they have to, and because they do God takes care of them.
Matt. 6: 31 & 33 “Therefore do not worry, saying, what shall we eat or drink…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Jesus is not teaching indolence or idleness. He explicitly says, don’t worry, seek God’s kingdom First, and what you need will be added to you. How? By just standing there with our mouths open and our hands out? As you will see from what follows, that’s not how the Apostles Peter, Paul and John understood the teachings of Jesus.
My Commentary: A Biblical Defense of Preparedness
1. Consider 1 John 3: 17 – 18 “If anyone have this worlds goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.” You cannot help a brother in need if you can’t help yourself. If we wait too long to prepare for problems we won’t be able to help ourselves or anyone else. If this verse is to be obeyed then some sort of preparation is not only in order, but required.
2. Paul exhorted a collection for the saints in Jerusalem who were experiencing a famine. Why didn’t Paul just write to the Church in Jerusalem and tell them to trust the Lord. Didn’t God provide the Manna for ancient Israel? Wouldn’t He do it for them in Jerusalem, and for the needy in a crisis?
3. When God gave Israel the promised land, except for those places that were under the “ban” and were completely destroyed, He left them with cities they hadn’t built, fields they hadn’t plowed, crops they hadn’t planted and vineyards they hadn’t tended. Did He then say, I’ve given you all this, just sit and enjoy it? Did He not expect them to tend the vineyards, plow and plant and harvest. In short, did they have no responsibility to be a good steward of what they had been given and to make them even more fruitful so they could live off the bounty of the land as the Lord blessed their labours?
4. If God expects us to do the everyday work by which we glorify Him and sustain our families during normal times, why doesn’t He expect us to do the same for crisis times? If after our best efforts, guided by His gracious hand, we do not have enough to survive on, then perhaps we may expect Him to intervene in extraordinary ways to take care of us. If not, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Under normal circumstances the Lord gives us the strength to provide for ourselves and families, why should we expect something different in hard times? Not to provide for ones self and family when one had the power to do so seems to tempt God. When God provides the opportunity to prepare and we don’t, are we any less foolish than the 5 virgins who could have, but didn’t take enough oil for their lamps. We all know that this parable has to do with being watchful and ready for the coming of the Bridegroom, but an ancillary lesson is that the 5 foolish virgins were declared foolish precisely because they could have avoided their plight but didn’t.
5. Malachi 3: 10 speaks of bringing all the tithes into the storehouse and “see if I will not pour out a blessing such as you cannot contain” But how are you going to bring in a tithe if you haven’t worked to produce a tithe, either in good times or crisis times?
6. What does Prov. 6: 6 – 11 mean, if not that we are responsible to do the work of preparation while we are able. “Go to the ant you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep – So shall your poverty come on you like a robber, and your need like an armed man.” See also Prov.13: 4; 20: 4; 26: 16. One brother suggested that the proper interpretation of this passage was a “spiritual” one. Even if that were true, and I don’t concede that it is, it would be true spiritually ONLY if it is also true physically. We can hardly expect to get spiritual truth from false statements.
7. 2 Thess. 3: 10, says, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” No amount of exegetical legerdemain can make that verse say anything but what it says. My version – “No work – no grub.” Obviously that does not include the infirmed or the aged. But it does plainly teach that indolence should not be rewarded. What else can it be called, when we could have prepared for the crisis but we didn’t? That is a principle that applies in either normal or crisis situations.
8. Please note that I have refrained from calling names. The “names” you’ve seen are what the Bible has to say about those who do not provide for their own, or who are “sluggards” or “imprudent” by ignoring the obvious.
9. With regard to fleeing from life-threatening situations – what one brother sarcastically refers to as “hidey hole” theology – Both Peter and Paul escaped from life-threatening situations. Peter fled from Jerusalem after his miraculous deliverance from prison by the angel. Paul was let down over the walls of Damascus when a plot against his life was uncovered. Both of these were escapes from the physical persecution that arose against them because of their testimony and preaching of the Gospel. Are we supposed to believe that God is only interested in preserving His people if they are in danger as a result of their following Jesus? That if the shortsightedness or greed of the world, places Christians in danger, that somehow that is not sufficient reason to escape in order to continue to serve, worship and love God and those around us? I can’t speak for others, but I know my purpose in preparing for eventualities. It is not merely to save my hide; it’s not worth that much anyway; but to do what Christians have done throughout the centuries, namely to maintain a LIVING witness to the redemptive love of God in Christ, and to continue nurturing the Church which God has called me.
10. Some Christians believe that it is wrong to leave your urban or suburban home to find a rural setting where survival would be more likely. They call this “hidey hole” theology. Yet, after the stoning of Stephen much of the Church in Jerusalem dispersed precisely to preserve their lives, to continue to care for each other and spread the Gospel in the new surroundings. God called Stephen to martyrdom, but not the whole Church. The Church in Rome met in the catacombs. Some lived in the catacombs. Was that “hidey-hole theology?” When Jesus began his ministry He read from Isaiah in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….This day the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” They wanted to kill Him, but He “passed through them.” He escaped. Was that “hidey hole” theology?
11. In 1 Kings 17: 8 – 16, Elijah instructed the widow of Zarephath to give him her last cup of flour and last bit of oil. He told her don’t be afraid, God will provide. God caused there to be a daily miracle provision of flour and oil for her survival. But another widow and her son in 2 Kings 4: 1 – 7, were instructed by Elisha to gather many containers, for God was about to provide for her needs. There was an immediate miracle of multiplication of the oil, part of which she was told to pay off her debts, but the remainder she was to store. Thus, there was preparation, provision, and then storage in order for this woman and her son to survive. Sure, the provision was miraculous; but her use of God’s provision was quite normal and mundane. Nor did Elisha criticize her for storing her oil for her family’s future needs.
12. Am I stupid, sinful and unbiblical because I want to see that my family survive? Am I to suppose to believe that God doesn’t want me to do anything about the survival of those whom I love, whom He has given to me? Have I no responsibility? Do I just stand with my eyes scrunched closed and say, “OK God, you take care of me and mine?” Survival is not the ultimate value or goal for me or my family. It never was or will be. “Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever” is. If God wants me and mine dead, so be it, and may He be praised forever. But I don’t see that glorifying God and staying alive are mutually exclusive, especially when He seems to be graciously giving us advanced warning precisely so that we may continue to survive, so that we may serve Him and others.
And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks.- Ezekiel 2, verse 6
The clever see danger and hide; but the simple go on, and suffer for it. – Proverbs 22, verse 3.
A closing thought: When Noah built the ark, it wasn’t raining