Opinions on faith and life

Faith and Prudence

2008-10-10

If I had to choose a word to describe the emotion of our time, I think I’d pick “panic” or “worry”. It seems that people can tolerate just about anything but the prospect of losing life as they’ve known it. We in the west especially have become so accustomed to plenty of food, clothing, and shelter that we think they can never be threatened. But now that the world faces financial disaster which in turn would stop the continuous flow of goods and services, people suddenly are forced to face the fact that eventually the piper has to be paid.

We’d expect Christians to know better, but it seems that they too are panic-stricken and spend a lot of time berating those who do not dig bomb shelters in the back yard and buy gold bullion. To me, that seems like a complete lack of faith, but to them it seems like wisdom. Here are a couple of scriptures that highlight the two concepts:

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” (Prov. 22:3)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mt. 6:19-21)

Which is it? Are we to dig the bomb shelters or believe God will provide? Let’s look at another passage:
”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. (Mt. 6:28-34)

Hmmm... is Jesus actually telling us to do nothing?

Of course not. Note the emphasized text: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. What does that mean?

It means that your primary motivation in life is God, his kingdom, his glory, his honor. You live to please God, not to see what you can get away with and still get to heaven, or just because you fear hell, but because you love him. Your life revolves around that relationship. It motivates you to provide what you are able for your family, according to the measure with which God has blessed you. You live within your means and don’t grumble about how God appears to bless others more. And having done all that, you trust. The important thing is that our refuge is in God. I do believe that the worse the world gets, the more miracles we will see from God. He expects us to take reasonable precautions, but in times of extreme disaster we rely on the promises of God.

Few who take the bomb shelter route have a plan for protecting their stash from government confiscation or roving gangs who would kill to get supplies in the event of a complete financial meltdown. Yet they think we’re all irresponsible if we don’t go to the nth degree to prepare for physical needs. Neither do they tell us how millions of believers are all to have the means to do such things. Some will lecture others on not living under the poverty level just so they can have a stocked bomb shelter and own gold. Yet I would think that whatever God commands, he provides. He wouldn’t tell us to store up physical goods without giving us the opportunity and ability.

It could be that some are to gather and store, and others are not. Either way, it is God who makes the choice, not us, and it’s our job to listen for His leading. I am thinking of Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 41), who was in a position to store up in order to provide for his relatives who weren’t. And we can conclude that the ”storers“ are far fewer than the ones who can’t. Of course, I wouldn’t expect God to provide for those he told to store but who refused, hence the need to listen.

All I know is that things cannot continue as they have. But in many ways that will be a good thing. Perhaps, although it’s a long shot, the many ungrateful ”welfare bums“ will snap out of their entitlement mentality. And many in the middle class are trying more than ever to get out of debt. We should each do what God has made provision for us to do and trust him for the rest. But above all,

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. (Luke 21:28)
This is our great hope, our basis for faith. While it does not promise rescue from every trial, and Christians of all generations have had them, it does tell us that we must not forget we are living in prophetic times. There is much more than financial distress going on in the world.

Let me close this out with a link to an article I think God is making applicable to this generation of believers, from the excellent prophecy site Grace Through Faith: ”From this day on I will bless you".

4 Comments

Truthseeker

Paula, great article! All we have to do is present our fishes and loaves to Jesus and He will make them stretch to fit the needs, or, He will not-according to whatever other purposes He sees best to accomplish. Paul admonished us to learn to be content in every circumstance, whether we have plenty or not.

Lin, I, too, have found much encouragement and inspiration from the authors you mentioned, and have seen God do similar types of miracles in my life. Sometimes He provided amazingly and miraculously; yet other times He allowed me to have leaner times. Sometimes the provisions were cliffhangers and other times they were given comfortably in advance of the need. I know that it is possible for Him to allow us to starve, be tortured, and so on. He promises strength, comfort, and joy in such times nonetheless. Paula, I agree that as times get tougher, we will see more miracles.

Greg Anderson

Paula,

Good thoughts on the fulcrum point between prudence and trust in the LORD. God gives common sense and sound advice throughout his word to not engage in reckless behavior, financial or otherwise.

Solomon wrote extensively on the futility of putting all of one’s eggs in the basket of this world. He uses one summation (at the end of Ecclesiastes) and it goes like this:

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."

Paula Fether

Thanks Greg!

This was prompted by what I’ve been hearing lately in various circles, that somehow there is only one right way to prepare for the perilous times to come.

We do need to recognize that the line between faith and irresponsibility will not be drawn in the same place for everyone. That’s the error of both those who trust in bomb shelters and those who quit their jobs to sit on hilltops and look at the sky.

The important thing is, as you pointed out, to know where our trust really lies and then do what God has placed before us to do. The shelter-builder needs to realize that our trust must still be in God, and the hilltop sitter must realize that we are to act on what God provides yet without losing our trust in His provision. God gives assignments to each as He chooses.

Which seems to point to the wise saying, "Moderation in all things." But of course, Christians would say "Moderation in most things," because there are things like the Gospel we cannot be moderate about.

Lin

Something I have found very helpful are biographies of Hudson Taylor, George Mueller and Amy Carmicheal. These folks had nothing and could only depend on God to provide. many time it was just in the nick of time, too. It may not be what the flesh wanted but they were provided for.

As Christians in this land of plenty, we have not had to depend on God for daily needs. How much closer a crisis could bring us to Him and see His Soveriegnty over all things.