The word providence has a variety of meanings, but we will discuss it here as a Christian grace of character, which may be defined as the quality or action that acquires and preserves the means for the present and future needs of ourselves, our dependents and the poor.
The Means of Providence
The means that providence acquires are such things as are required for supplying the present and future needs of ourselves, our dependents and the to-us-known worthy poor. These means are both secular and religious:
(1.) The secular needs of such are primarily food, clothing and shelter, and secondarily secular education, training for one’s employment and securing one’s employment, which provide the means, such as money, whereby one can secure those secular needs.
(2.) The religious needs of such are: (1) food for heart and mind, God’s Word; (2) clothing for heart and mind, primarily Christ’s righteousness, and secondarily the graces of heart and mind; and (3) shelter for heart and mind, which are needed for and in times of trouble, trial and temptation. The means for securing the above are God’s spirit, Word and providence, which for oneself implies the study and practice of God’s Word; and for our religious dependents and the religiously poor, it means to spread the Word toward these, thus educating and training them for their religious calling, as well as encouraging and comforting them.
The Parts of Providence
There are seven parts or elements of providence:
(1.) Enterprise, which makes one do the venturing necessary for the acquiring feature of providence. For most forms of providence the proverb is true, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
(2.) Its gaining feature, which is seen by people using their livelihood to gain the means for the needs of themselves and others.
(3.) The quality and practice of retaining the means of supplying one’s own and others’ needs.
(4.) Economy is the quality and activity whereby, avoiding all waste and excess, conserves the means of providence within the limits of a sufficient supply for the involved needs.
(5.) Thrift is the quality of saving all surplus for one’s own and others’ future needs.
(6.) Frugality is the quality and activity that makes one’s own needs and those of others for whom he is responsible avoid all excess and waste, and cultivate the quality of being satisfied with the plain and simple.
(7.) Carefulness as to the use of its six preceding qualities and activities so that one’s providence may be a blessing to oneself and others. Such carefulness will guard one from misdeveloping the two extremes of providence.
The Abuse of Providence
But providence in its various elements may be abused, or exaggerated. Let us consider its secular abuses, but recognize that it may also be overdone religiously:
(1.) Covetousness is the most frequent abuse of providence.
(2.) Greediness is the evil quality which seeks to get all it can and keep all it gets.
(3.) The grasping spirit, which seeks to gather to oneself and away from others their possessions, positions, etc., by means fair or unfair.
(4.) Overreaching others is displayed in the businessman who overreaches others by cheating them as to the quantity and quality of the goods or services that they offer to sell.
(5.) Penuriousness is manifested in some husbands, wives, fathers and mothers who withhold from their spouses and children to the point where the latter suffer by not having enough for their needs.
(6.) The worst form of exaggerated providence is miserliness, which is shown in the miser who is known for his filth, misery, and lack as to proper food, clothing, shelter and reasonable comforts of life.
Curbing Overdone Providence
Let us consider how overdeveloped providence, even unto its cultivating the evils of exaggerated providence, may be curbed and overcome. These methods may be used against both the secular and religious exaggerations of providence:
(1.) A firm, persevering consideration of their unprofitableness, their evil character, their degrading effects upon oneself and others, God’s and Christ’s disapproval of them, Their charge to destroy them, Their pleasure at their destruction and the pleasure of others at their destruction.
(2.) The exercise of generosity, liberality and the other Christian graces used against these exaggerations of providence will also prove helpful.