City/Urban Living: A Matter of Trust
Do you trust people to do the right thing? Do you trust politicians? Do you trust business people? Do you trust the water, fuel, and mercantile transportation infrastructure? Do you trust that the environment will treat the earth gently and that major storms or earthquakes will not come near where you live?
If you live in a city, then there are only three scenarios under which you are living there:
1. You are an extremely trusting person who blindly expects society to function smoothly and expects others to watch out for you, or,
2. You are living there very unhappily, with a knowledge of just how tenuous your situation is, or,
3. You are living there in faith because you know that is where God wants you.
It is important that you not confuse numbers one and three. If you are living in a city or major urban area (let’s take Southern California, to pick a spot at random) because you like it there and your job and friends are there, and you thus assume God will bless you and keep you from harm because He is an amazing God, then you are not living by faith. You are living by presumption, and there is a very big difference. Being explicitly called by God to live in an area is very different from choosing to live in an area and expecting God to honor your choice and bless you. Why is this presumption? Because God, through His prophet, has been telling His people to leave the cities for well over 100 years. He didn’t tell us to stop witnessing in the cities, and He has many that He has instructed to live in the cities for that purpose. But there are legions more who live there, in rejection of His instructions, simply because they want to.
Ellen White was practically shouting this counsel over a hundred years ago. Here are a few quotes:
“‘Out of the cities; out of the cities!’ — this is the message the Lord has been giving me. The earthquakes will come; the floods will come; and we are not to establish ourselves in the wicked cities, where the enemy is served in every way, and where God is so often forgotten.” Review and Herald, July 5, 1906
“Get out of the large cities as fast as possible.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 195
“Out of the cities, is my message at this time. Be assured that the call is for our people to locate miles away from the large cities.” Last Day Events, p. 95
So, who do you trust more? Counsel from God or the people of this world and their economic and governance systems? Trusting people and the systems of human society is increasingly dangerous as the natural systems of this world continue in accelerating decay and decline due to sin. Human society is built on the natural world, and as the natural world is in increasing distress, so to will human society be in increasing distress. We are seeing it already: Heat waves this summer that killed thousands in India and Pakistan as systems that were supposed to ensure delivery of water, power and health services collapsed. The city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is sucking up “sludge” from the bottoms of the last of its major reservoirs as more than 20 million people wonder what they will do next to get water (and a small stream leave the city). We are seeing tens of thousands of refugees from fires in Canada and we are seeing food production capacity begin to contract, leading to the expectation of increased food prices and, as a result, increased hunger and strife. We are seeing oceans in precipitous decline, we are seeing the jet stream slow markedly and shift once-regular weather patterns. We are seeing fires, heat waves, and floods of epic proportions. And this is just the beginning of the culmination of the effects of sin on our natural world.
Do you really trust the economic and governance systems of human society? Do you really trust other humans to be gracious and benevolent in times of crisis? Do you really trust that no crisis is coming? No? So then, really, if God has not specifically called you to live in a city and work for Him, what is your rationale for staying?
If your rationale is “its hard” to move away from the city and establish yourself in the country, making enough income to survive, then you have a good point. But here is the thing: it will be harder tomorrow than it is today, and it will be almost impossible to accomplish during a crisis. At this time, there is still value remaining in city and urban properties. It is still possible for some to sell out and get out, trading your city/urban property for a rural property. Your move will be very disruptive and difficult and there will be many trials. How much harder it will be, though, if you try to make your move when a crisis is apparent, thus lowering (or eliminating) sale values in the city while property prices in the country climb. The truth is, it will never be easier to make the switch than it is now.
Is the Lord calling you to leave the city or urban area you are in? Ask Him. Ask him if the counsel the prophet urgently gave more than 100 years ago also applies to you, now. And next time you find yourself on a crowded road at rush hour, ask yourself if you trust the people around you to act in a civilized and benevolent manner during crisis after crisis after crisis. Because that is what is coming.