Several years ago, I gave a series of lectures on Christian economics at Cedarville College, a Baptist school located in Cedarville, Ohio. One of the lectures dealt with the question of preparation for the future. I stressed the likelihood of inflation, food shortages, and social disruption. I called upon the audience to take steps then, while the steps were still inexpensive and possible, to protect themselves. I argued that they should stockpile items that are likely to be in short supply in a crisis, especially food and precious metal coins.
One lady, who was obviously not a student, indicated in the question and answer session that she was absolutely enraged by my talk. “You don’t believe in the sovereignty of God,” she informed me, “You act as though God won’t take care of us in every instance, giving us precisely what we need. You won’t admit the truth of the Bible that God will take care of us.”
I have heard similar statements from Christians ever since, though not stated so boldly, and not linked to my supposed lack of belief in the sovereignty of God. The lady was a big mouth, and I suspect that when her food runs out, she will be a big mouth at her neighbor’s, or try to be. But that’s neither here nor there. The idea that no preparation is necessary now, that Christians should not be sacrificing some consumption now in order to provide for themselves in the future, is altogether too common.
What these people really mean is this: You will provide for me. They are saying to the one who stores up food and necessities, “You have a moral obligation to support the poor in times of scarcity, and I may then be poor. You will have a moral obligation to take care of me, since you are God’s steward. I will spend my money on nice cars, decent housing in the city, and all the other things that delight my eyes today, and if the crisis comes. I will come to you, and God says you will have to support me.” When a crisis hits, they will remember those who spoke to them about making sacrifices in the present for the sake of survival in the future, and they will present themselves at the front door, demanding support.
These people would have challenged Joseph in Egypt, had they been given the opportunity. “Look here, Joseph, you’re cutting into my income. You’re having the Pharaoh take 20% of my production and storing it up for your hypothetical crisis. Don’t you believe in the sovereignty of God? Don’t you know that God will take care of His people? You just don’t want to live by faith.”
The story of Joseph is significant. The famine which hit the world drew people of many nations to Egypt. They came to buy food. Joseph’s brothers were compelled to make the journey into Egypt — arrogant men who had sold their brother into slavery and then lied to their father about him, bringing great grief to the old man, Now they were forced to come to their brother for their lives, though they did not know who he was in the beginning. The whole family finally came to Egypt, and it led directly to their eventual enslavement, when a Pharaoh arose who did not remember Joseph. “God will take care of us,” they may have thought as they were sending Joseph into slavery. “God always takes care of His people.” They may have thought when they neglected to store up grain in the good years preceding the famine. And God took care of them. too, but at a cost far higher than they thought their descendants would have to pay.
God took care of the remnant in the days of captivity for Judah. Jeremiah was taken care of as he wrote Lamentations. As the Babylonians smashed the dreams of Judah’s inhabitants, those who survived the war were taken care of. They lived. However, they went into slavery, and most of those who did never returned. Some of those who did return shed great tears when they saw the post-exilic temple’s foundation, for it was pathetic in comparison with the one Solomon had built (Ezra 3: 12). God had taken care of them, but not in the life style to which they had become accustomed and believed they deserved.
Those who constantly are singing the “God will take care of me” refrain cling to an image of God which is not unlike that of an insurance claims adjuster. Every possible disaster is supposed to be covered. But most important, the disaster coverage is purchased with the cheapest sort of premiums, such as faithful attendance once a week to a church meeting. Their cosmic insurance policy is non-cancellable, in force twenty-four hours a day, and does not require escalating premiums to cover great increases in risk. Their theology is “once saved, always saved” — with or without the personal fruits indicating salvation — and their personal planning philosophy is similar: “once insured, always insured.” Their policy cannot lapse.
This is a total misunderstanding of the biblical concept of God’s care for His people. When Joshua attempted to take the city of Ai the first time, 36 men died. They died for two reasons. First, Achan had sinned. and God had put the nation under a temporary curse (Jos. 7). Second, their deaths lured the men of Ai into a trap in the second military engagement (Jos. 8). What are we to say, that the 36 men were not true believers? That they were not being cared for? That God had temporarily forgotten His promise? That their “insurance policies” had lapsed?
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)