Posted, August 19, 1998

To Prepare or Not to Prepare

The NT Question

Some to whom I have expressed concerns about taking precautions against possible difficulties ahead -- e.g., lack of things considered necessities of life, food, electricity, fuel, utilities -- have referred to two passages given by our Lord: Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:12. Using these two passages, I have been told that it is a lack of faith to prepare for disasters of any kind, whether it be prospective destruction caused by the millennial bug, tornados, hurricanes, floods, &c.

Argument: "It is a lack of faith according to Matthew 6 and Luke 12 for a Christian to prepare for a prospective disaster." The Lord says that all Christians need do is to Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man, and they shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied? (Ecc. 12:13, Ps. 37:19.) In other words, Christians do not need to do anything, and the Lord will take care of them in the time of turmoil.

Answer: In both cases, the context shows us that the Lord is dealing with the spirit of covetousness. In neither case is he speaking against preparing as such. Dare anyone say that the Lord's words -- 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? (Mt. 6:26, Lk. 12:24, both in the same contexts as Mt. 6:33 & Lk. 12:12) -- can possibly be construed to mean that the Lord will provide for the Christian farmer who neither sows nor reaps?

In both Matthew 6 and Luke 24, the message is against laying up treasures on earth at the expense of one's responsibility to the kingdom of God on earth -- that is, serving the god of mammon.

And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. (Lk. 24:18.)
The problem was covetousness, for he said, I will pull down my barns, and build greater. In other words, the Lord did not condemn his building the first barns -- that was prudent. The problem was that he already had enough, yet he sought more rather than using it properly in the Lord's service: So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (v. 21).

Gill makes a good comment, "my fruits and my goods." He claimed them as his own to be used exclusively for his own enjoyment, totally contrary to the Christian law requiring us to give to those in need and to finance the kingdom work. (Eph. 4:28.) The problem was not his "storing" up; the problem was that he left the Lord and the kingdom completely out of his plans.

Argument: "But neither the Lord nor the Apostles prepared for the future here on earth." (See Pr. 13:22.)

Answer: They had all been promised an early death. (Mt. 24:9, Jn. 16:2. They had been warned of the cost, Lk. 14:28.) The Lord himself warned his people to watch for the future evil and take proper precaution: Matthew 24:26, Cestius Gallus advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it. Then with no cause, lifted the siege, and withdrew his army though the city might have easily been taken. This was the signal for the Christians to make their escape, which they did. Thus when Titus came a few months later, there was not a Christian in the city. (John Gill, Online Bible.)

Matthew Henry makes an interesting comment concerning Matthew 24:16:

Note, In times of imminent peril and danger, it is not only lawful, but our duty, to seek our own preservation by all good and honest means; and if God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God but tempt him. There may be a time when even those that are in Judea, where God is known, and his name is great, must flee to the mountains; and while we only go out of the way of danger, not out of the way of duty, we may trust God to provide a dwelling for his outcasts, #Isa 16:4,5. In times of public calamity, when it is manifest that we cannot be serviceable at home and may be safe abroad, Providence calls us to make our escape. He that flees, may fight again. (MH, Online Bible.)

It is the strong man armed that keepeth his palace, and keeps his goods in peace. (The man who prepares for the foreseen evil keeps his house. See Lk. 11:21, Mk. 3:27, Mt. 12:29. The context speaks of the spiritually strong man protecting his house against the Devil's intrusion, or the Devil as the strong man, and the Lord binding him so he could spoil his house.)

Accordingly, those who do not take precautionary action concerning foreseen approaching evil against sin "do not trust God but tempt him."

Argument: "What about Ecclesiastes 12:13 and Psalms 37:19?"

Answer: These verses also are easily answered from their Old Testament contexts. See, "The Doctrine of Causality."