I’ll admit it upfront: I’ve been stocking up on certain grocery items like flour, oatmeal, peanut butter and honey, because I see how fast the prices of these items have been increasing. I’ve also been busy all summer canning and filling our pantry with various fruits, garden veggies and homemade soups that I’ve preserved. Some people might call me a “prepper.” Is that a criticism? Is there anything wrong with prepping? Is it something we should be doing?
How we answer these questions depends a lot on how we define “prepping.” In basic terms, a prepper is someone who sees the potential for emergencies, catastrophic events or other survival situations and makes preparations to try to “ride out the storm.” Within that definition is a whole range of ideas.
Some preppers focus on being ready for short-term disasters, such as a weather emergency, fire, or power outage. They might have a first aid kit on hand, plus some freeze-dried meals, bottled water, flashlights, and a hand-cranked radio.
At the other end of the spectrum are the “doomsday preppers”—those who are readying themselves to try to survive an apocalyptic event of some kind, such as global economic collapse, mass famine, the detonation of a weapon of mass destruction, an asteroid collision, or the eruption of a supervolcano, along with the subsequent breakdown of society. They typically build elaborate survival shelters or underground bunkers, and stockpile huge quantities of food, medicine, guns, ammunition and other nonperishable goods.
Probably the majority of preppers fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. They’re concerned about the threats to daily living, like droughts, crop failures, rising energy costs, supply chain disruptions and runaway inflation, but don’t take all the drastic measures that the doomsday preppers do. Their focus is on stocking up on survival foods (grocery items with a long shelf life and dehydrated foods) and household supplies (like toilet paper and cleaning products) because they believe there will be shortages of these provisions in the not-too-distant future. They might also grow their own produce and raise livestock to become less dependent on grocery distribution systems.
Being prepared is a biblical principle
When addressing the topic of whether prepping is “good” or “bad,” the first place we should look to for guidance is the Bible. When we do, we see numerous passages indicating that prepping, at least some manner of it, can be wise.
Proverbs 6:6-8 Proverbs 6:6-8  Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
 Provides her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.
American King James Version×talks about the hardworking ant that “prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” Proverbs 10:5 Proverbs 10:5He that gathers in summer is a wise son: but he that sleeps in harvest is a son that causes shame.
American King James Version×adds that “He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son.” In these verses, summer represents a time of plenty, when produce is readily available for gathering. This is in contrast to winter, when food is scarce and times are more difficult. The point is, it’s smart to store up food while we can, because we know winter is coming. We need to be ready. This is basically what Proverbs 27:12 Proverbs 27:12A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×(New Living Translation) is telling us: “A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions.”
Noah and Joseph were excellent examples in this regard. Noah not only built the ark in preparation for the flood, but also stockpiled food and water for the eight people and all the animals that would be on board (Genesis 6:21 Genesis 6:21And take you to you of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to you; and it shall be for food for you, and for them.
American King James Version×).
In Genesis 41, God gave Joseph advance warning of a seven-year famine, prompting Joseph to set aside extra grain in storage during the seven years of abundance prior to the famine. This sustained his and Pharoah’s households and many others living in the region.
Dangerous times are ahead of us too, unlike anything the world has ever experienced before. God gives us plenty of warnings in the Bible about what will happen as we get closer to Jesus Christ’s return. The Bible commands us to watch these signs and occurrences as they develop (Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 16:13 1 Corinthians 16:13Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
American King James Version×). This is primarily to motivate us to prepare spiritually (through prayer, Bible study, meditation, etc.), but it can also prod us to prepare physically. Both kinds of preparation can help us get ready to face the difficult times ahead, and also enable us to provide support for our families and help others as well.
It goes without saying that we always need God’s divine protection. But if there are practical steps we can take to stay safe, or mitigate some of the problems we might be experiencing right now, that can be a very responsible thing to do.
Questions to ask yourself
This is not to say that we need to have a five-year stash of freeze-dried foods as some doomsday preppers do. But neither is there an absolute cap on how much stocking up is “acceptable.” I’ve heard comments like “it’s okay to prepare for short-term emergencies, but nothing more than that,” which is why some individuals may feel sheepish about admitting they’ve been building-up on a longer-term supply of groceries.
And it’s true…not all prepping is done in accordance with biblical principles. But the difference between biblically based prepping and prepping that’s misguided lies not so much in the activities themselves, but rather our intentions, priorities, and mindsets. Before you start prepping, it’s important to examine your motives for doing so. Here are three questions to ask yourself:
1. Will it help me live God’s way of life?
Any kind of prepping we do should be done with God’s purpose for us in mind. If it helps us be a better parent, spouse, neighbor, employer or fulfill whatever our God-given role may be, then we should do it. For instance, stocking up on certain household items while they are still relatively affordable, during a period of hyperinflation, can help us provide for our family. But prepping is not good if we become preoccupied with it, to the point that it diverts us from doing our spiritual preparation.
2. Am I thinking about the needs of others?
It’s one thing if you have garden produce to can or freeze, or if you buy a few extra grocery items each week or when there’s a sale on something, so you can build up some supplies of food for the future. But it’s another thing if you’re panicking about potential shortages and buy all the canning lids or tuna fish on the shelves, leaving none for anybody else. Philippians 2:4 Philippians 2:4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
American King James Version×reminds us that while it’s okay to look out for our own interests, we should also remember the needs of others.
Biblical prepping is not a selfish endeavor. One of the reasons it’s good to stock on supplies is it can put us in a position to share with others who are in need. I know people right now who are “priced out” of buying a lot of groceries. I also know individuals who are good at planning and finding good deals to stock up on, and they’re always bringing meals to people or having guests over to dinner. They’ve got the food surplus to do it because they’ve been preparing.
3. Where am I putting my trust?
If our intent is to try to save ourselves from global calamity, as the doomsday preppers aim to do, we’re kidding ourselves. Only God can keep us safe during a time of trouble. And even during the times we’re in now, while there are steps we can take to shield ourselves from some of what’s happening in the world, we must remember that God is our ultimate source of protection (Psalms 18:2-3 Psalms 18:2-3  The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
 I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from my enemies.
American King James Version×, Psalms 91:5-7 Psalms 91:5-7  You shall not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day;  Nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday.  A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.
American King James Version×).
We should never place our faith in our stockpiles of food or any other physical resources, such as our investments, financial assets, or our home security system. Biblical prepping does not take our attention off God.
What’s the bottom-line? Prepping can be a constructive activity, assuming it’s done with a pure heart and motivation. And, the flip-side of that is prepping can also be misdirected, if the focus is on oneself or the here-and-now. The level to which we might prep, or if we decide to not do it at all, is really a personal matter.