Winter was coming. Paul thought about the cloak he had left at Troas and so he requested of Timothy, “The cloak… when thou comest, bring with thee…” (2 Timothy 4:13). He wanted it before winter (4:21). He was concerned that he be prepared for winter.
Did Paul disobey the command that the Lord Jesus gave many years earlier? The Lord had said, “take no thought… for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). What about “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies…” (Matthew 6:28). Don’t forget, “Therefore take no thought, saying, …Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (Matthew 6:31). It sure looks to me like Paul was thinking about his clothes!
Some well-meaning people insist that it is faithlessness to prepare for the future regarding material needs in this life. I think every born-again Christian would agree that everyone needs to prepare for eternity. The prophet Amos cried, “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12). But, right now we are dealing with the question of preparation for seasons of life that are ahead of us.
As we think about Paul, I can’t help but remember that he prepared for an escape from Jerusalem when he found out that certain men had made a vow to not eat until one of them killed him. He didn’t piously proclaim something like, “Well if the great Sovereign sees fit to defend me then I’ll survive.” No, he kept trusting God, and he asked for and accepted help from armed men. You can read about that in Acts 23. In Philemon we see that he told Philemon to prepare a lodging for him (Paul) and his travel companions. I know I’ve read that Paul actually made tents sometimes so that he could exist. Interesting. That must have involved some serious planning on his part. So, was Paul disobeying what the Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount?
I think you can find the answer if you’ll read the context of the verses I’ve already mentioned in Matthew 6. The Lord was teaching that His disciples needed to be giving of their money to provide for needs involved in the work of His kingdom. This would be laying “up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). When they knew that they needed to give for the sake of His kingdom they were not to disobey by selfishly bringing up questions like, “But how will I have food and clothing?” They were to trust Him and give. Their temporal needs were not to out-rank their eternal investments. They could serve God with money, but they were to serve God, not money.
Now, if the Lord’s people are to absolutely, positively, literally NEVER think about the future, then, “Houston, we have a problem.” After all, we read that Noah was a man who walked with God and he prepared for a rainy day. OK, that’s corny, but it’s true, isn’t it? We find in the Bible that Joseph was a man of faith, and in the perfect will of God he led an entire nation in saving for seven years to prepare for a famine that was headed their way. Even the Lord Jesus was concerned that preparation be made for a meal, the Passover, so he sent disciples to take care of that (Matthew 26:18,19). I don’t think He was disobeying His own instructions by thinking and planning ahead about food. Do you?
Did you ever notice that Paul wrote that the reason believers ought to work was so that we can give? That’s right. Check it out in Ephesians 4:28. He also revealed that we work so that we can eat too! See for yourself in 2 Thessalonians 4:10-12. Uh oh! There he goes again, taking thought about how people can get material things. He’s teaching people to prepare for when they are hungry, to plan ahead by getting some work so they can eat. Of course, I’m being sarcastic.
I think the root issue here might be that some have a misunderstanding of what it is to live by faith. Don’t just take my word for this, but living by faith is simply finding out from God’s Word what the Lord wants us to do, and then doing that. You really should look at Hebrews 11 and see what I’m talking about. There we see example after example of people that accepted the Lord’s commands and they obeyed Him. Repeatedly it is said of them, “By faith …”
If you will consider the whole of Scripture I am sure you will find that God actually intends for you to live by faith when it comes to your finances. That is, deal with your finances Biblically. The Lord, through His Word, commends having a budget, saving for lean times, getting out of debt, taking care of your property, and even leaving an inheritance. Planning can be good as long as it is in the Lord’s will. Remember James 4:13-17. Planning is not condemned there, but planning outside of God’s will is.
Paul wasn’t disobeying the Lord by thinking about the future. No way! He was serving the Lord and preparing to be able to serve the Lord even when winter came.