When Prepping is Biblical and When It’s NotTim Kinnard
I sometimes get asked what my thoughts are on the topic of “prepping.” When you have a homestead and one of the things you try to do is live self-sufficiently, people often point out how similar some of the lifestyle choices appear to be between those two groups—that is, between “homesteaders” and “preppers.”
If I were to be completely honest about it, I would have to admit, there probably is a lot of crossover between the two camps. For the sake of this post though, I’m not so much concerned about splitting hairs and distinguishing between what is categorically “homesteading” vs. what is categorically “prepping.” Rather, what I want to try to do is tackle what is generally thought of as the “practice of prepping,” regardless of what label it takes. Call it “prepperism,” “survivalism,” “homesteading,” or “crazy Aunt Matilda’s hording habits,” it doesn’t matter to me. What I want to consider is just how biblical the practice itself is, and to whatever degree it is (or isn’t) biblical, how the Christian needs to give more attention (or less attention, as the case may be) to the whole preparedness line of thinking.
For the sake of definitions, I know when a person talks about prepping, it’s important to clarify that there are all manner of different kinds of preppers. Perhaps the most recognized of which are the infamous “Doomsday Preppers.”
ON DOOMSDAY PREPPING
A few years ago, National Geographic put out a popular TV show by the same name that got a lot of attention at the time. In addition to the attention, it probably received a lot of laughs too since most of the people who were profiled on the show appeared to largely fall on the crazy, extremist-end of the scale.
Even among the so-called Doomsday Preppers, again there is plenty of variety. Not only are there the classic “Nuclear Fallout preppers” with their underground bomb shelters, just waiting for the Cold War sirens to go off, but there are also “EMP preppers,” with their faraday cages; “Economic Collapse” preppers, with their stashes of gold and silver; “Global Warming preppers,” with their high-elevation housing, safely built away from the rising sea levels of melting polar ice caps; and “Pandemic and Biological Warfare preppers,” with their masks, hazmat suits and hermetically sealed sterilized environments. There are even all-out “World-War-III, Marshal-Law, Zombie-Apocalypse, Alien-Invasion” level preppers with their full arsenals of AK-47s, ammunition, and aluminum foil hats.
There are all different kinds of Doomsday Preppers. That being so, a stereotypical practice all of them seem to share is the stockpiling of whatever supplies they imagine would be necessary to survive whatever large-scale disaster scenario they predict could presumably happen in their lifetime. I think I’ve seen most prepper’s checklists able to be boiled down to “the three B’s of preparedness”—and those are having a sufficient supply of band-aids, bullets, and beans. Or categorically, that would translate to first-aid needs, self-defense needs, and general sustenance needs
Obviously, in a real “catastrophe/disaster level” situation, those kinds of preparations and provisions would make all the difference. Just watch any survival-themed movie, or read any dystopian fiction novel to see how these things go. The one who is prepared, well equipped, and well-armed is the one who typically makes it to the end credits, or to the last page of the story.
Of course, as a Christian, the point isn’t to model one’s life off of fiction, but to model our lives on the facts of reality and the truths of Scripture. And so, I think the big question that needs to be asked is, what does the Bible have to say about the subject? Does God’s Word address the topic of prepping? I think the short answer is, “As a matter of fact, yes, it does speak toward the topic!”
It may come as a surprise for many to learn that some of history’s biggest preppers are some of the Bible’s biggest names. The list could begin with none other than Noah in Genesis 6, who God told to build an ark in preparation for a global flood that he planned to pour out upon the earth in judgement. And what was he told to put in the ark? A stockpile of everything that was needed to repopulate the earth.
In addition to Noah, there was Joseph in Genesis 41 who, though he didn’t face quite the global-extinction-level kind of event that Noah did, he still had to deal with a regional 7-year famine. God gave him advance warning of the famine so that during a 7-year period of plenty that preceded it, he could prepare and set aside enough to see Egypt and its neighbors through the hard times to come.
After Joseph, Moses comes to mind. On the night of Passover in Exodus 12, God told him and all the Hebrew families to have their bug-out bags ready. He told them to “keep their belts fastened, their sandals on their feet, and their staff in hand.” In essence, he told them to be prepared for the major Exodus out of Egypt that was about to happen.
There are other examples in the Bible we could point to, but before we get too carried away with that, let’s consider why the Bible gives us the stories of men like Noah, Joseph, and Moses to begin with. If you think about the purpose for these Scriptures, it isn’t necessarily for us to go out and duplicate everything they did detail by detail.
Just because Noah built an ark doesn’t mean God wants us to go out and build an ark too—or build a bunker, or to fill up our own shipping container’s worth of supplies. I don’t think that’s the intended takeaway of Genesis 6 through 9.
The examples of faith we’re given in men like this, according to Hebrews 11, is to compel us to adopt the same kind of faith—a faith that’s built not on blind speculation, but on “assurance in the things hoped for though not seen,” namely in what God has specifically promised to us.
Faith isn’t blindly acting on an imaginative hunch; it’s acting on what God has personally said. In the three cases I mentioned, God—whether directly by a word, or indirectly by a dream—told his servants what was about to happen…and their faith was acting according to that promise.
In terms of modern day prepping, unless a person wants to claim they’ve received direct revelation from God about specific events soon to unfold—and from what we know about passages like Hebrews 1:1-2, it’s probably wise to question such claims—I don’t think the Christian is called to run around like Chicken Little overly confident that the sky is falling every time there’s a drop of rain.
In James 4, the Bible reminds us, “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” In the context there, he’s just talking about travel plans, but how much more does that apply to catastrophic or apocalyptic events? If we’re really talking about doomsday, we don’t know when that’s going to happen, or how it’s going to happen. Jesus says, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
The other thing to say about it is, if we’re really talking about Doomsday Preparations, I think the point of Revelation is there’s going to be no stopping it, and no ultimately surviving it. But this old, sinful world will be burned up and dissolved, and a new heaven and earth will be established after we’ve all stood before the Judge and given account. And on that day, we can better hope we’ve got Jesus in our corner.
The only Doomsday Preparations I’m concerned about is being ready to meet my Maker, and being sure my trust is in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I suppose in that sense, I am a Doomsday Prepper. My preparation isn’t to hide out in the caves and the rocks like those in Revelation 6, calling out to their mountain bunkers to “hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb…,” but rather my preparation is to be ready to approach that throne with confidence knowing that I am safe from wrath because I’ve been forgiven. Matthew 10:28 says,
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
It’s not the possibility of World War III or some Mad Max future we should be worried about as much as the guarantee of a Great White Throne Judgement in Revelation 20.
ON COMMON, EVERYDAY PREPPING
With that said, to be fair to Scripture, though Doomsday Prepping in the “stockpiling, surviving-the end-of-the-world” sense of the term, isn’t something Christians are necessarily called to do, I think there is a kind of common, everyday prepping that Christians are very much called to be about. I don’t have the time in this post to get into all the verses, but the Proverbs alone are full of instructions teaching the wisdom of planning ahead based on realistic and, for the most part, predictable factors.
One of my favorites is Proverbs 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?”
The whole point there is that it’s wise to plan ahead, based on what we know about the seasons. We know winter is coming, and if we want a harvest before winter hits, we need to do the hard work of preparing our food in advance.
It’s not crazy talk to say winter is coming while the temperatures are still warm for the simple fact that winter is coming. We know it’s coming. It may be months away, but it’s coming, so get ready. What would be crazy talk would be to say winter isn’t coming and, therefore, like the grasshopper in Aesop’s Fable, waste our time playing our fiddle all day.
The same principal applies not only to winter, but to any seasonal occurrence, whether that’s tornado season, or hurricane season, or wildfire season, or flu season, or a bear market, or a period of recession, or a season of inflation. Just go down the list. If one can reasonably estimate a thing is sure to happen, even if that thing is still one month out, one year out, or even one decade out —it’s wise and biblical to prepare for that thing, and it’s downright foolish not to.
The Bible resorts to name calling on this issue. You are a lazy, selfish “sluggard” if you’re not going to do something about what’s on it’s way and simply expect others to accommodate for your lack of planning when it finally arrives. Another passage that comes to mind is Proverbs 22:3 that says,
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”
Here, it doesn’t even have to be something that’s completely predictable, but it can be some sudden, unexpected danger you happen to notice is creeping on the horizon. You an enemy or predator outside prowling in the woods, it might be a good idea to get the kids inside.
Take that principal and apply it to any modern-day danger. It could be a literal danger to your life. Or it could be a danger to your freedom. Or to your property. Or to your values. Or to your marriage. It could even be a danger to the soul of the very society you live in. If you see a danger of any kind steadily creeping closer, it’s wise to try and do something about that. The prudent see the dangers while the simple go on as if nothing is wrong.
How we ultimately prepare for those different situations will depend on the situation. Preparing for the winter season will look different than preparing for the sudden threat at your front door. But to give you a few biblical principles that hopefully apply across the board, remember this:
- Whatever your preparation looks like, remember it’s not to be selfish.
Jesus rebuked the man in Luke 12 who horded so much of his harvest that he needed to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones, patting himself on the back saying, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
For the Christian, the point isn’t to boast in being the wise ant and kicking all the lazy grasshoppers to the curb, but to be the wise ant and to be generous with what we have
- Another principal to live by is that whatever your preparation looks like, remember it’s not all meant to be tangible.
Jesus says in Matthew 5,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”
I don’t think that means we shouldn’t have any tangible provisions, but rather that our real stockpile isn’t invested in money boxes, gun safes, and food pantries, but it is so evidently more in those investments that have an eternal stake holding. Our treasure and our real nest-egg exists in our relationship with God, the redemption of our souls, our relationship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, or those we want to see become brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Lastly, a third principal worth applying, is to remember that our preparation isn’t about survival.
In the book of Philippians, when Paul is grappling with the possibility of execution vs. his will to stay alive, he’s sure to recognize that either option in his mind is a win-win scenario since to die would be a gain, but to live would also be an advantage because it would provide him more opportunity to serve the church.
In no way does Paul want to get out of jail and live a comfortable life for the sake of living a comfortable life. He has a purpose to accomplish. And, if he’s not going to fulfill that purpose, or if God is finished with him in that purpose, he’s done. He’s done what he was here to do.
The idea of living life simply to survive is not biblical. We’re here—we were created—we were born—we were made Christians for slightly bigger objective than that. And therefore, whatever preparations we make in life should ultimately be to enable us to go about what we’re here to do. And when God is done with us, he’s done with us.
And then, as I’ve already said, we better be sure we’re prepared for the real Doomsday to come. And, thankfully, those who trust Christ are more than prepared.
So much more could be said on this subject, but I’ll leave it at that. Is prepping biblical? I think the answer is, yes, prepping can be biblical…assuming it’s done biblically. And, the flip-side of that is, prepping can also unbiblical if done in sinful ways or with selfish motives.