Slightly updated on August 23, 2015
Survival preparations are a contentious issue among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although the leadership of the Watchtower Society has not forbidden such a thing outright, it is generally discouraged and viewed negatively – as a demonstration of a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide. It may be that the Watchtower subtly seeks to distance itself from the food stockpiling that Mormons are known for and the “God, guns and gold” motto of militant Christians.
The problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they do not see the calamity. That may seem like an odd statement to make concerning people who have been in anticipation of Armageddon for decades. But that is the problem. The Governing Body has led Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe that they will more or less be passive bystanders when the great tribulation commences and Babylon the great is destroyed. They do not envision any other calamity on the horizon. According to the Watchtower the symbolic seals of Revelation heralding war, pestilence and famine, were unsealed long ago in a bygone era.
Even as the world inexorably lurches towards war, food shortages via financial collapse, and potent pandemics brought on by “superbugs,” Jehovah’s Witnesses have no inkling that such things will happen on a scale dwarfing all the calamitous events of the 20th century. Hence, they do not see the impending calamity.
Sensible people generally take reasonable steps to protect themselves and their families from unanticipated calamity. Isn’t that why we buy different sorts of insurance protection and set aside money for a ‘rainy day’? Jehovah’s Witnesses do not expect God to miraculously spare them from illness or accident. Is having health insurance a manifestation of a lack of faith? If not, then why should having a modest supply of provisions set aside for an unseen calamity be viewed any differently?
As the system we live under becomes more and more unstable there is an increasing likelihood of acts of terror, perhaps involving radiologic dirty bombs or even suitcase-size nuclear devices. For that very reason the U.S. government has advised Americans to have a go-bag (also known as a 72-hour ‘bug-out-bag’) at the ready, in case disaster strikes close by. Would it be exhibiting a lack of faith in God’s saving power to have an emergency kit at the ready?
The scene of the world can change very rapidly. For example, in 1923 Germany began printing enormous amounts of Reichsmarks in order to pay off its war reparations. In June of 1923 it took 272 Reichsmarks to purchase one U.S. Dollar. Suddenly, though, hyperinflation ignited. By September prices rose hourly. By October 60,000,000 Reichsmarks bought one Dollar! Before the end of the year the German currency was completely worthless. Persons whose wealth was tied to the Reischmark were completely wiped out. And Bible prophecy assures us that the people of the entire world will throw their worthless money into the street, just as they did in Germany. By the way, there were many International Bible Students in Germany then, as Jehovah’s Witnesses used to be called. Do you suppose God shielded them from the hardships that befell the German people when their money was destroyed?
Particularly since the financial crash of 2007-8 the central banks of America, Britain and the EU have been doing the exact same thing that brought about the swift destruction of the Reichsmark – massive money creation. Hyperinflation thus far has been confined to so-called Third World countries, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela, but that appears to be about to change. Keep in mind that hyperinflation is not that things become more expensive, it is that money becomes less valuable. More and more money is needed to purchase the same item. Ultimately money becomes worthless and isn’t that exactly what the Scriptures have foretold?
Back during the height of the financial crisis in October of 2008 supposedly the system came within a few hours of completely seizing up. Had that been allowed to occur simple everyday transactions would have become impossible. Imagine the panic that would ensue if people could not withdraw money from a bank or cash machine, write a check or use a credit card to purchase the necessities of life? Certainly having some cash on hand for that sort of emergency would be wise – at least in the initial phase of a crisis, before money becomes worthless.
When calamity strikes it will be too late to prepare. And with hyperinflation even armloads of money cannot buy the necessities of life. And you are no doubt aware that in emergency situations people can quickly lose their civility. Surely it would be preferable not to have to compete with crazed hoards of people stripping the grocery store shelves clean.
Keep in mind that Christians are under obligation to look out for the needy and the disadvantaged. In the first century Paul instructed several congregations to set aside provisions the first day of every week for the relief of those in Judah under famine conditions.
When Jesus initially sent out the 12 apostles to preach he specifically instructed them not to carry any money or food in their pouches. They were to rely on the kindness of those to whom they preached to care for their needs. However, on the night of his arrest Jesus told his apostles: “When I sent you forth without purse and food pouch and sandals, you did not want for anything, did you?” They said: “No!” Then he said to them: “But now let the one that has a purse take it up, likewise also a food pouch; and let the one having no sword sell his outer garment and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be accomplished in me, namely, ‘And he was reckoned with lawless ones.’ For that which concerns me is having an accomplishment.”
Jesus’ instructions to the apostles underscores the point; that, while Christians rely on God to provide, God also expects them to be prepared for trouble to come. Who knows, you may even have the privilege of helping the brothers of Christ when they are homeless, hungry and naked.
There is a saying in the world that God helps those who help themselves. But that is just a saying. It is more apt to say that God helps those who help others. That axiom is verified in the Scriptures. “Is not this the fast that I choose? To loosen the fetters of wickedness, to release the bands of the yoke bar, and to send away the crushed ones free, and that you people should tear in two every yoke bar? Is it not the dividing of your bread out to the hungry one, and that you should bring the afflicted, homeless people into your house? That, in case you should see someone naked, you must cover him, and that you should not hide yourself from your own flesh? In that case your light would break forth just like the dawn; and speedily would recuperation spring up for you. And before you your righteousness would certainly walk; the very glory of Jehovah would be your rear guard. In that case you would call, and Jehovah himself would answer; you would cry for help, and he would say, ‘Here I am!’” – Isaiah 58
I used to be close friends with a sister who is the mother of three girls. Like every parent she worried about her daughters. She once asked a circuit overseer about what might occur during the tribulation. He told her that not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses would perish. I think that is what she wanted to hear. But is it really the responsible thing for those in positions of authority to merely tell people what they most want to hear? According to Jesus, the tribulation would be a time of great necessity resulting in ‘woe for the pregnant woman and those suckling a babe in those days.’
Certainly we want to take refuge in Jehovah now and especially during times of trouble, but if you could alleviate a child’s distress during a time of great necessity by regularly setting aside a few things now, wouldn’t that be the wise and good thing to do – rather than expecting God to take care of them?
True, Jesus said the tribulation would be a time to leave all behind. He advised the man on the housetop not to come down to collect his belongings. But until we reach that point wisdom dictates that it is better to have something set aside for ourselves, our families and others, as we have the means, than it is to have nothing. It may turn out in some circumstances that having survival provisions are of no value. On the other hand, it may be that a few preparations now may be lifesaving. Either way, it is better to be prepared.