Prepping in Biblical Perspective

Like any movement, the prepping community includes a wide range of individuals. From preparing for zombie attacks to doomsday scenarios to hurricanes to simply preparing for the winter season, the underlying motives behind this movement have taken many forms--spanning the spectrum of personal preparedness and personalities. Some, within the prepping community, simply enjoy a homesteading lifestyle while others seem to be preparing for World War III.

To be transparent, I am sympathetic with the overarching idea of prepping. I learned early on as a boy scout to "be prepared." As an adult, I have come to understand the sobering reality of buying insurance, locking the front door at night, and having a fire escape plan--all "just in case" something bad happened. From preparing for our week ahead to thinking through the coming year, we all prepare to some degree or another. But is preparation contradictory to biblical teaching? Didn't Jesus tell his disciples not to worry and be anxious about tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-34)?

Before answering these questions directly, here is a survey of some biblical passages that speak about our need to be prepared--both by way of example and precept:

  • (Gen. 6-9) - the example of Noah, preparing for the flood. See also (Heb. 11:7) "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household."
  • (Gen. 41:47-49) - the example of Joseph. During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured."
  • (Neh. 4) - the example of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall and all of the preparations of both building and protection involved.
  • (Prov. 6:6-9) "Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?"
  • (Prov. 16:9) "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." We see here the complementary truths of our planning and God's sovereignty.
  • (Prov. 22:3) "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it."
  • (Prov. 24:27) "Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house."
  • (Prov. 27:12) "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." [note: repetition of Prov. 22:3]
  • (Eccl.  11:1-2) "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth."
  • (Ezek. 33:6) "But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes away one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity."
  • (Ezek. 38:7) "Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you."
  • (Luke 14:28) "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"
  • (Luke 22:36) "He said to [his disciples], 'But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one."
  • (1 Tim. 5:8) "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
  • While one could include all of the passages on preparing and being ready for Christ's Second Coming under the general theme of "preparation," I've chosen to leave these out for the purposes of this discussion.
  • The words "prepare," "preparation," "keep watch" (and the like) appear over 150x throughout Scripture.

As is evident from the passages above, faith and preparedness often go hand-in-hand. We see this so clearly the example of Noah. If you see danger coming--whether from a forecasted ice storm, home invasion, solar EMP, financial collapse, or a hurricane--you prepare. God has given us minds to use and guidance to follow.

At the same time, we are called to trust in God and not to be plagued by worry or anxiety. The biblical "prepper" trusts in God's goodness and sovereignty and, therefore, doesn't succumb to being gripped by sinful fear. However, he is also one who looks ahead with wisdom to provide for his family (1 Tim. 5:8) and, in a broader context, the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).

We should also strive to be less dependent on others--including the government--for basic means and living (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-12). The Scriptures include many "one another" instructions (e.g., forgiving, bearing with, caring for, etc.), but we should not want to be a perpetual burden on others or become reliant on Uncle Sam to take care of us (as many in New Orleans sadly learned the hard way in 2005). As our society and nation have become increasingly interconnected with other societies and nations, one weak link can have an increasing crippling impact on the entire "system." We've seen this in recent times with the collapse of Greece's financial system and its subsequent havoc on Western retirement accounts. We've seen how a leak in a gas pipeline cripples many states over night. One company's bad news in the stock market sends fear throughout our entire culture. Most of us have lost the old arts of preserving food, keeping a family garden, obtaining clean water, making household items, taking care of animals, and even changing oil in a car. As a whole, Americans are not prepared to weather any significant storm.

The church, in particular, will face perilous times in the coming years. Christian men, women, and children will have to endure increasing persecution from an increasingly hostile culture, intolerant government, and from Islamic militants. This shouldn't surprise us. Jesus often prepared his disciples for this reality. In many ways, the church is starting to reflect the plight of Israel in Babylon. In the midst of their exile, God told his people, "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their the welfare of the city" (Jer. 29:5-7). Build houses, plant gardens, and pray for your city. Not exactly earth-shattering news; just simple, sustainable, and faithful living.

If you and your family do the research and sense a significant likelihood of danger approaching, take reasonable and appropriate steps to prepare. If you live in Florida, the preparations you would make will certainly be different than if you live in Kansas or Alaska. If you live in a volatile financial culture, consider other ways to diversify your assets, like acquiring commodities. I'm not suggesting that you spend your entire retirement overnight on a doomsday bunker, but I am suggesting that you think about whether or not you and your family could survive for a short season (at the least) if you didn't have access to electricity, gas, or the grocery store. That doesn't seem too far-fetched. As an Uzbek Christian once said, "Trust God and keep your donkey tied up."

Brian Cosby (PhD, Australian College of Theology) is senior pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and visiting professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta. Brian has authors numerous books including Giving Up the Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture.