Should Christians worry about preparedness? Jesus said we should not think about tomorrow, and some Christians say that preparing for emergencies and problems shows a lack of faith in God’s providence. What, though, does the Bible say about it?
I have had quite a few conversations centered on a certain concept – it is unchristian, and it shows a lack of faith in God, to prepare for emergencies with food, medical or financial stockpiles.
One of the arguments was that God says “Throw your bread upon the waters” and “Don’t even think about tomorrow”.
They point out that Jesus sent his disciples out with nothing, and say that “storing up riches” is bad.
Christians, therefore, by this line of thinking, should trust God and pray, doing nothing to store up goods for tomorrow. This is not a new concept and many groups have espoused it over the centuries.
Both Jewish and Christian Scriptures have passages which people use to mean “don’t prep”.
How does that correspond to reality?
In my experience, most of those who say this are likely to live paycheque to paycheque, frequently say things like “I’d make you a coffee, but I’m out of sugar” and go into full blown panic if the pay is late (or short) when the bills are due.
“Oh, God will provide”, they say as they’re spending madly.
“Oh, NO, what are we going to do?” they say when the bills come due and the money is gone.
Now, let’s start with this – “Throw your bread upon the waters,”
It comes from Ecclesiastes 11, and it does NOT refer to spending madly while expecting God to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head.
Read the whole passage, and it becomes really clear that Solomon is discussing the wisdom of diversifying your investments and working hard on multiple projects, because you never know what the future will hold.
Wise old Solomon was a fan of redundancy and preparedness.
In fact, Proverbs is full of wise sayings about preparedness.
A Prudent person will foresee such difficulties and prepare for them, while a simpleton will go blindly on and suffer the consequences. Proverbs 22:3
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. Proverbs 21:20
Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provides her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
Oh, there were definitely situations in which God specifically told the Israelites that they were to explicitly trust God to provide even the basics, but these were unusual circumstances in which they were being taught lessons.
Unless you expect God to take you from slavery and maroon you for forty years in a desert you should have walked across in a couple of weeks, don’t be expecting manna to drop on your lap every morning.
Then again, IF you find yourself, after years of preparing, being thrown into a “lost in the desert” situation, then pray, trust, and learn.
I know this one from experience – at the age of 34, I found myself penniless, homeless and nearly friendless, with everything I had built up taken from me. You trust, pray, learn, live within whatever meager means you have, and work your butt off to rebuild.
Despite the fact that Jesus said not to worry about the future, and to look to the sparrows, he also taught about being prepared.
The foolish said unto the wise, give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out… And while they went to buy, the Bridegroom came … and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage and the door was shut. MATTHEW 25:10
This does not mean that hoarding and greed are good.
Throughout the Bible, you will find commands to share with the poor and hungry, to leave the edges of your fields to the gleaners, to be generous with your alms, and to build up your treasure in heaven instead of on earth. It is good to build up supplies that will get you and your family through a bad year or two, rotating, replenishing, and sharing with others.
It is not good to toss out two hundred pounds of wheat and three boxes of medical supplies because they spoiled in your basement. Is your attitude that “It’s mine, mine, mine, all mine”?
Yesterday, I was told “Jesus says not to even THINK about tomorrow, because today’s troubles are enough.” (Matthew 6:34)
This was coming from someone with a very nice household income and no money in the bank – even with the mortgage due.
With their paycheque delayed by a few days, she’s having serious problems. I asked “You don’t have enough to cover one mortgage payment?” And she said, “Well, no, of course not. Not until the pay comes in!”
I think that she was missing Jesus’ point, to be honest.
Like many people, this friend of ours alternates between reckless spending and a frenzy of worry. God is providing well for their family – the money coming in, about four times what we have, should be sufficient to provide well for them and build up stores for leaner times.
But like Solomon’s foolish man, she and her husband devour all that they have. A few days after the pay comes in, the bank account is empty. Her husband’s pay, while generous, is unpredictable, so she has had times when they are buying groceries on credit for a month and borrowing mortgage money from family.
Could this possibly be what Jesus meant?
According to Strong’s dictionary, the word translated as “give no thought” is merimnao, which means being anxious, worrying, being troubled with cares.
One of the best ways that I know to prevent worry, especially for things like food and clothing, is to prepare in times of plenty.
And by that I mean, once your “daily bread” is taken care of, put away something for tomorrow. Take care of the necessities, put something aside for tomorrow, and then enjoy some luxuries.
Like Joseph in the seven years of plenty, what you need *tomorrow* may be provided today. Anticipate the needs of your family, to the best of your ability, and make arrangements to meet them. That, my friends, is preparedness. Not only is it allowed in the Bible, it’s pretty much commanded.
One time, visiting my friend Leona, an Old Order Mennonite farmer, I mentioned the issue of worrying for the future. It was early in the spring, and she was getting her seedlings started and the greenhouse ready for the growing season.
All of you who farm and garden know how much work she has to do in order to reap that amazingly bountiful harvest in the fall.
She is most certainly “giving thought” for tomorrow.
I mentioned this topic to her, and she laughed. “I don’t WORRY,” she said. “What good would worrying do? I just work hard doing MY job, and I trust that God will send the sun and rain to grow the plants and take care of HIS job.”
King Solomon (and Jesus) would have approved.