Preparations are being made across the nation for the millennial calendar roll over. Major businesses, the entire banking industry, and governments at every level have spent billions attempting to prevent a millennial meltdown and prepare contingencies for potential Y2K-related crises. Government and private emergency management agencies have warned citizens to prepare for one to two weeks of disruptions in utilities and food distribution.1
If one is inclined to make decisions based on objective data and reason rather than mere emotion, such information should justify preparation, and thus prevent victimization at the hands of Y2K.
There are, however, at least three categories of potential Y2K victims within our church families that may need special attention: the misinformed, those inclined to panic, and after January 1, 2000, those facing shortages in food, water, and other basic necessities. These need not become victims of the hype, hysteria, or realities of Y2K, for God has provided His people the resources to minister to each group.
Within our congregations we may find those who are well-intentioned in their response to Y2K, but are misinformed. They suggest preparation for Y2K is in some way unbiblical. Some have been told that such preparation implies a lack of faith. Others might respond, "Seek first the Kingdom of God … and all these things will be added to you."
The Bible clearly teaches that we are to seek first His Kingdom and trust the Lord for our provisions, but when faced with a real potential for disruptions in food and water distribution, does the Bible teach, or even imply, that we should not prepare accordingly? Is it a lack of faith to have two weeks of food and water on hand at the dawn of the next millennium?
Quite the contrary, such preparations are entirely consistent with at least two biblical principles.
Solomon extolled the virtue of prudence throughout Proverbs. In 22:3 he declared: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. The Hebrew word translated "danger" can also mean "misery, distress, or injury."2 One commentator suggests it is anything that can cause physical, financial, or moral injury.3
Emergency management and disaster relief organizations across the nation consistently warn of the potential for temporary local disruptions in utilities and food distribution. They warn that failure to prepare for Y2K could pose serious risks, particularly for those who live in sections of the country subject to severe winter weather. Certainly this falls within Solomon' s category of "danger" in the passage. Therefore, having an extra two weeks' supply of food and water, and planning for power outages that can affect heating systems is entirely consistent with his emphasis on prudence.
Those who suggest such planning demonstrates a lack of faith likely have insurance on their home in case of fire, and on their car in case of an accident. They likely have a spare tire in the trunk in case of a flat tire. These precautions are not taken because of the certainty of hardships and mishaps, but because of the potential for them. Do these precautions reflect a lack of faith? No, rather they demonstrate prudence – the same prudence that would lead to appropriate Y2K precautions and preparations.
In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he included instructions concerning the church's care and provision for widows. In chapter 5, he indicated that the local church should address the needs of widows who had no immediate family to care for them, while those with families were to be cared for by their families. Then in 5:8 he declared: If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
God places a high priority on providing for our families. He declares that failure to do so is a denial of our faith, and doesn't even rise to the standards of unbelievers. This has particular bearing on planning for Y2K. Anyone who knows the potential for disruptions in utilities and food distribution, and fails to prepare the family accordingly, fails God's expectation to properly provide for the family's needs. If we had no warning, perhaps this could be excused – but warnings have been issued for months.
Preparing for Y2K is not inconsistent with seeking first the Kingdom of God and trusting Him for our daily needs, rather it complies with God's expectation of prudence and provision.
As we approach January 1, 2000, some will recognize the potential for disruptions and become anxious. Fear may set in, leading to panic. Government and disaster relief officials suggest their greatest concern in Y2K is not shortages and power outages, but widespread panic.
Many cases of panic could be prevented by instructing people to gather information, communicate with local civil authorities, and to make physical preparations. In addition, for the "household of faith" reminders of key biblical truths will provide spiritual preparations by keeping Y2K in proper perspective.
There are abundant resources available for those who wish to gather information. For individual and home preparation, the American Red Cross has prepared a brochure on basic Y2K preparedness. The brochure is available on the Internet through their web site – www.redcross.org – or by contacting the nearest Red Cross chapter.
The Cassandra Project (www.cassandraproject.org) has provided extensive and thorough information for personal and home Y2K assessment, food and water preparation and storage, and personal hygiene in the event of utility and sewage treatment disruptions.
For general Y2K information, consult the resource list provided in the November, 1998 issue of SBC LIFE.
God's Word is sufficient to eliminate all Y2K related panic, for there we find at least three lessons that address these uncertain days.
God is in Control
When secular pundits repeatedly preach that our existence, our world, indeed our entire universe is the result of one great cosmic accident, we may be tempted to forget that God created the universe by His own power and for His own purposes. He alone is the One who keeps it all from falling apart.
When the people of God were inclined to worship and follow false gods, Isaiah reminded them: Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls them each be name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)
Paul instructed the Colossian church on the supremacy of Christ, declaring: For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. (1:16,17)
Some fear Y2K will bring about the collapse of civilization. Humans tend to think that we somehow hold our world together by our own ingenuity and devices. We fear Y2K for it threatens that sense of "having everything under control," and if we lose control, everything will collapse. However, we've never had anything under control. The only reason our universe has not collapsed to this point is that Jesus has held it together. Y2K is not a problem for God – He is sovereign. He will be no less in control January 1, 2000 than He has ever been. If He chooses to keep society intact beyond January 1, 2000, Y2K related failures cannot bring about its demise. If He chooses to allow our world's demise, no level of Y2K preparedness will keep it intact.
God is Working Out His Plan
Since the dawn of creation, God has been working out His plan. Paul refers to God's plan as eternal, reaching back before creation (Ephesians 1:4,11; 3:10,11). The psalmist declared: The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:10,11) John revealed the culmination of His plan in Revelation 19-22, when Jesus will defeat every foe, establish His millennial kingdom, usher in the new heaven and new earth, and live forever in perfect fellowship with His people in the new Jerusalem.
Y2K has not surprised God in any way – it will not alter His plan. At some point He will bring history to its conclusion. If He chooses to allow Y2K related failures to that end, so be it. If He has not planned history's culmination at that time, Y2K will not hasten its arrival.
It is crucial for us to remember that we are not at the mercy of Y2K – we are at the mercy of an all-powerful God who perfectly executes His perfect plan.
God consistently reassures His people that those who follow Him have no reason to fear. In Isaiah 41:10, He declares: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my right hand. The psalmist points to the man who fears the Lord and finds great delight in His commands. He says: Surely he will never be shaken … He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear … . (Psalm 112:1,6-8)
God promises His presence and strength for those who fear and love Him, and His strength is far greater than any potential threat or danger – even the worst that Y2K could offer.
As a child, there were places I would never have gone by myself. But if I was with my father, I would gladly go anywhere. He was big, strong, brave, and able to handle any situation or potential threat. He loved me, and I had every confidence that he would protect me. That which would have terrified me had I been alone became an adventure when I was with him.
So it is with Y2K. We dare not go there by ourselves, but if we are walking with God it need not be anything more than our next adventure.
God's people have good reason to prepare for potential Y2K disruptions. But because of His control, His plan, His strength, and His promised presence, we have absolutely no reason to panic or fear.
If the new year brings electrical power disruptions in some locales, God's people will have an opportunity to minister to material needs in affected communities. If power is off for more than two or three days, families will likely find themselves with no running water and short of groceries, and grocery stores will be unable to open. Even if stores could open, they would likely not have basic necessities because of last minute panic buying. Those families who did not plan accordingly could suddenly find themselves in desperate need of food and water.
Families who depend on food stamps and welfare benefits could also find themselves in need, even if there are no power disruptions. Government reports reveal that the agency responsible for providing these services to the needy – Health and Human Services – is woefully behind in its Y2K remediation efforts.4 Some senators warn this agency could have serious disruptions in its distribution of essential services in the early weeks of 2000.5
To complicate matters, the same studies reveal that many state welfare agencies – the means by which HHS distributes food stamps and welfare benefits – are also far behind in their plans for Y2K compliance.6 There is serious concern that in some parts of our nation, many who depend on these services may not have the means with which to buy groceries or pay bills. Those who may be most effected by Y2K disruptions are the people in no position to stock extra supplies of food, water, or money in preparation!
These are the potential victims after January 1 to whom we can minister. In His Word, God makes clear His concern for the hungry, the poor, and the needy. As part of His social design for Israel, God required the nation to take note of the poor and needy and to provide for them (Deut. 15:7-11; 24:19-22). He said that to show kindness to the needy is to honor God (Prov. 14:31), and failure to help those in need hinders our prayers (Prov. 21:13). God revealed through Isaiah that fasting without also caring for the poor and hungry was offensive to Him (Isaiah 58:5-7). When Jeremiah confronted king Jehoiakim, he told him that to defend the poor and needy was to know God (Jer. 22:16).
James declared a faith that ignored those in need was a dead faith (2:14-17).
God expects His people to reflect His love in many ways, but one way He specifically identifies is in providing for those in need. This is to be a way of life for the church, regardless of Y2K. However, in light of the prospect of an increased number of people in need after the first of the year, how much more ought we be prepared to minister in such a way.
One way to prepare for such a ministry is for Christians to stock additional food and water. Some have suggested stocking enough supplies to provide for two or three families. If Y2K disruptions do not materialize in our own community, saving food and water will not have been in vain – the extra supply could be sent to other parts of the city, state, nation, or world that will experience shortages. Y2K forecasts for some countries are indeed grim, and there is a high probability these countries will be in great need. God's people in the U.S. are in a position to help at home and abroad, and He expects us to do so.
Y2K may pass with no significant disruptions in our nation. However, even if there are significant disruptions, there need not be any victims of Y2K. We know precisely when it is coming, we have ample time to prepare, and at this point we have resources to prepare for ourselves and for others.
Furthermore, God's people have no reason to fear or panic. The God who has reigned in all of eternity past will still be King January 1, 2000. But our King would not be pleased if Y2K catches us by surprise, leaving us unprepared to care for our families and for others. He expects us to be good stewards. We have every opportunity to be positioned as ministers in the midst of crisis, rather than become victims of crisis in need of ministry.
1 See, "Y2K: Why Bother?" SBC LIFE, February/March 1999, p. 6.
2 Brown, Driver, and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, At the Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 949.
3 Crawford H. Toy, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Book of Proverbs, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1977), p. 414.
4 The United States Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, Investigating the Impact of the Year 2000 Problem, February 24, 1999, p. 110.
5 Ibid., p. 111.
6 Ibid., p. 114.