The moment he stepped in the door he could hear the baby crying, smitten with hunger.
The problem was, he was too poor to feed his wife enough that she could supply the baby sufficient milk. And this particular afternoon, he didn’t even have a dime to buy milk for the baby!
It was 1930, in the midst of a crippling national depression. What’s a good husband to do? Herbert Armstrong knew it was his responsibility to provide for his family. He had been working every option he had and coming up short. “There’s only one thing to do,” he told his wife. “We’re helpless, of ourselves. There’s no human to help us. We’ll have to rely on God. He has promised to supply all our need—and this is a need” (Autobiography , vol. 1, p. 401). Mr. Armstrong prayed right then that God would hastily provide a dime to buy a quart of milk for his newborn.
Within the very minute of that prayer, a “rag and bottle man” wandered by the Armstrongs’ house. Amazing! They flagged him down and asked if he’d like to buy anything from their basement. He went down to look. Sure enough, a stack of old magazines caught his eye, and he offered to buy it for exactly one dime.
What a miraculous answer to prayer. What an impression it must have made on Mr. Armstrong. This was among a few notable experiences early in his converted life that taught him a lesson he never forgot.
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
How many men today disregard this plain biblical principle? God commands that a man win the bread for his family. It is not optional. If it requires chopping expenses, getting two jobs, looking for better pay, so be it. But the responsibility lies squarely with him.
And what is the wife’s complementary responsibility? To take good care of what the husband provides. She manages and beautifies the home; she stretches the dollars he earns for food, clothing and furnishings. A demanding, full-time job! Together with her husband they make a complete team. Mr. Armstrong lived and taught these marital laws throughout his ministry.
What happens if a woman is unhappy with the level of her husband’s providence and decides to go out against his wishes and do some providing of her own? The very fabric of the relationship frays under the stress. The man may feel unappreciated or worthless, and be even less inclined to provide for his wife.
As Mr. Armstrong always taught, God’s laws provide the path to happy living; any deviation from them and we end up in a dark, confused thicket.
We know that God designed the physical to point us to the spiritual. The laws He ordained governing family and marriage teach us about our coming entrance into the spiritual Family of God and our marriage to Jesus Christ.
If the physical father is to be the provider for the family, isn’t our spiritual Father to be the same? And if the husband is to provide for the wife, doesn’t Christ have the same responsibility toward the Church? They certainly do! “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God is the provider for His Family!
Think of that. In this way, God and Christ do not require anything of us which they themselves are not prepared to do. And, of course, they are exemplary in fulfilling those roles. In fact it is their examples that husbands and fathers should be inspired to emulate.
With this understanding, there is another lesson to learn from Mr. Armstrong which perhaps goes even deeper.
Ordained Into Christ’s Ministry
Over some time Mr. Armstrong weaned himself off his income from worldly jobs and increasingly devoted himself to ministerial duties, receiving a small salary from a church group. But doctrinal disagreements with these people began to multiply as God opened his mind to more and more truth. He came to a crossroads.
“If men pay us a salary,” he wrote to his wife, “we have now learned we must preach only what men order us to preach. If we are to do the Work of God we must look to God as our employer, and trust Him to supply our every material need” (ibid., p. 525). He steeled himself, stepped out and canceled his salary. This was a man of faith! From that point on, his living, and the Work, was dependent solely on God. Church policy was that all income would come by unsolicited, voluntary donation.
It was this policy of faith that freed Mr. Armstrong to preach the plain truth, that gave God the latitude to provide the direction He wanted the Church to go. It was this policy that built the Worldwide Church of God! Mr. Armstrong always trusted God to open the doors for the Work, and once opened, to provide the means for keeping them open. Mr. Gerald Flurry follows this same pattern precisely. Sometimes it doesn’t look like there are enough resources to take a particular course, but God expects His people to trust Him implicitly and simply walk through the door.
The essence of this inspired policy is an acknowledgement of God as provider!
Think of what God and Christ provided the Church under Mr. Armstrong. The steady flow of revelation and understanding, the literature and television programs, a virtual army of ministers and deacons, great material wealth including three colleges. You could then liken someone in Mr. Armstrong’s position to the “keeper of the home.” Was he a faithful steward of all these blessings? Did he maximize them, beautify them, put them to their best use? It is inspiring to meditate on. Mr. Armstrong was a sterling example of how to properly manage the resources provided by the Husband and Father of our spiritual Family!
Now personalize that meditation. How are we at managing the benefits provided by a loving Husband? Our treatment of new revelation from Mr. Flurry, of Church literature, of the TV programs, of the ministry, whether detailed and industrious or lazy and careless, is in large part what we’re evaluated on as Christ’s bride-to-be.
What about His providence for our personal needs? We really can trust Him to deliver on His promises—but in His own way, in His own time. Healing could be one example; a job that gives the Sabbath off; a mate. We need never get impatient and try providing for ourselves those things which are only His to give. We only need to support our Husband in fulfilling His job, and trust Him to provide.
Mr. Armstrong’s success as a faithful “help meet” to Christ can be measured, in large part, by the success, over 50 years, of Christ’s worldwide Work. Look at what Christ was able to accomplish! If we can apply that principle in our own lives, physical and spiritual, what might Christ accomplish with us personally?
In his Autobiography (pp. 623-624) Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Our living and guiding head, Jesus Christ, has begun opening … doors for the expansion of this work in an amazing, breathtaking manner! Even in times of economic recession—when our faith has been most severely tried! … God has provided the means. …
“Would you say this takes courage? Well, not exactly. Not after so many years of experience learning that God can be trusted!
“It’s a mighty practical lesson!”