Thank you so much for your insightful and educational blog. I highly respect your opinion and I am e-mailing you today to ask for your advice.
My husband and I are both conservative Christians who are totally committed to being prepared. Our problem is that we have encountered other conservative Christians who believe that manna will literally fall from Heaven if famine comes upon the land. I was personally told by my former pastor that I was “stupid” for storing food and owning guns. He also told me that by being prepared I was demonstrating a “lack of faith in God”. He told me that God would provide for me in the form of manna falling from Heaven if disaster ever struck. This story, unfortunately, is extremely common within the conservative Christian church. My husband and I have come across people like this over and over again. Other than telling these people that manna falling from Heaven was a one time event, quoting Scripture like Proverbs14:8, and reminding them that even Noah prepared for disaster by building the ark – how do my husband and I deal with people like this from a Christian perspective? Prayer seems to be the only answer. Can you recommend any other solutions in addition to prayer? Thank you for your time and attention. In Christ, – Heather M.
JWR Replies: I often 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 say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.”
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 that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain [persons is] void of understanding.. Proverbs 12:11, KJV
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips [tendeth] only to penury.(Poverty.) Proverbs 14:23, KJV
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. Proverbs 21:25, KJV
The thoughts of the diligent [tend] only to plenteousness; but of every one [that is] hasty only to want. Proverbs 21:5, KJV
The Bible encourages storing food. Look at Gen. 41:47-49 (KJV): “And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.Gen 41:48 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 seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth 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 regions 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 (KJV): “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. Consider this: “[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” – Prov. 21:20 (KJV)
And ponder this Old Testament passage: Psalm 34:9-10 (KJV): “O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for [there is] no want to them that fear him.Psa 34:10 (KJV) “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 (KJV): “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
One of the many names of God is Jehovah Jireh, which means God Who Provides. As a 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!
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 scripturally founded.
Exodus 22:2 provides Biblical justification for killing someone if he intends to forcibly rob or kill another man: ” If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, [there shall] no blood [be shed] for him.” Exodus 22:2 (KJV)
And Jesus teaches that it is wise to be armed, in Luke 22:35-36 (KJV): “And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, 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 (KJV), which descries how Jesus responded when Peter cut off the ear of a 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 strength,
which teacheth my hands to war,
[and] my fingers to fight:
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–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 11:27-30: “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 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 Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
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!
In closing, I’ll leave you with a key verse: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” – Proverbs 22:3 (KJV)
Note: I’ve updated my original response to include all cites from the KJV translation.