Earlier this week, I read a blog post by trained journalist/reporter Julie Roys that explained Hobby Lobby’s decision to apparently remain open in some states in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic (Hobby Lobby has since closed those stores). These states included Wisconsin and Ohio (states that had “stay-at-home” orders in place). While some commenters on Roys’ article pondered if other arts/crafts stores were doing the same thing (remaining open despite “stay at home” orders from the state government), a different thing caught my attention.
While the company’s alleged employee treatment practices are also noteworthy, that’s for another day (as an FYI).
In a tweet making the rounds on social media, user Kendall Brown posted a copy of the letter that Hobby Lobby owner David Green (a professing Christian) sent to (I presume) all stores on March 19, 2020. Below is the letter:
I will only primarily focus on the second and third paragraphs of this letter (if you have questions/comments on other sections of the letter, fire away in the comments section). I have copied them down below for convenience sake. I will highlight the key phrases of emphasis:
In my family, Barbara is the prayer warrior. Today, that title takes on such a different meaning than I ever imagined before because we are at war with this latest virus. To quote the late Dr. Billy Graham, “We are to pray in times of adversity, lest we become faithless and unbelieving. We are to pray in times of prosperity, lest we become boastful and proud. We are to pray in times of danger, lest we become fearful and doubting. We are to pray in times of security, lest we become self-sufficient.
In her quiet prayer time this week, the LORD put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. Guide, Guard and Groom. We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now.
While I take issue with the fact David admits he is not the prayer warrior of his family (a text like Ephesians 5:22-33 comes to mind), that statement isn’t my biggest gripe. Nor is the quoting of Billy Graham the biggest gripe of mine (Graham’s ecumenism is a reason I wouldn’t positively cite him in any writings of mine).
Instead, it’s this tacit, subtle denial of sola scriptura on the part of David Green’s wife, Barbara (who, like David, is a professing Christian).
If the LORD really laid those words on Barbara’s heart, where are the chapters and verses to support? Notice that there are no biblical texts in this letter to back these words that were supposedly laid on Barbara’s heart by the LORD. Instead, it is just pious, alliterative vaguery that isn’t helpful in this scenario.
Think about it. What if it’s God’s will that this storm is the end for stores/places of business such as Hobby Lobby and others? At least one newspaper reports that half of all hotels in the U.S. could close by the end of the year without a massive bailout. There is no guarantee every establishment in the world will survive this (and the outlooks are already grim). Millions have already lost jobs. Suicide and domestic violence are expected to rise if they have not risen already.
And how can Barbara presume God will guard (or even groom) “us” as “we travel to places never seen before” when tomorrow isn’t even promised (James 4:13-17)? Moreover, Hobby Lobby’s remaining in business isn’t even promised. The business may still remain, but it’s not a promise.
While Hobby Lobby does admit in the last paragraph that it doesn’t know the future, why presume to know it by (essentially) claiming direct revelation from God in the third paragraph of this letter? I wouldn’t have a problem with this letter if the second and third paragraphs were omitted. It doesn’t help matters to (essentially) claim direct revelation from God without providing chapters and verses to support the claim (especially in the midst of a pandemic). The moment one says “God told me“, one better follow that with a chapter and verse (or multiple of both).
Do I believe David Green’s claim that the LORD laid three specific words (guard, guide and groom) on the heart of his wife Barbara? No, I don’t. She may have a prayer time. She may be the prayer warrior of her family as her husband claims, but I don’t believe it was the LORD who laid those words on her heart. Was it Satan? I don’t believe so. It may have been the voices in her head or some bad pizza that day, but it wasn’t the LORD.
How do I know this? Well, God does speak today, but it’s not audibly (or via liver shivers, visions, etc.). It’s not because He can’t speak audibly (Psalm 115:3); He just doesn’t need to do so. Why, you ask? Because we have His written Word (the Bible), and His written Word is sufficient.
Hebrews 1:1-2 explains
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 [a]in these last days has spoken to us [b]in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the [c]world.Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)
Who is the “Son”? Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (Acts 4:12; Isaiah 43:11; John 14:6). He is God in human flesh, the Word Incarnate (John 1:1-14). God speaks to me (and other Bible-believing Christians) via the written Word, the Bible. As Justin Peters states, if you want to hear God’s voice, read your Bible. If you want to hear God’s voice out loud, read your Bible out loud.
One final thing on Barbara’s words; I have seen some news outlets/people (Patheos being one of them, in addition to the aforementioned Kendall Brown) classify Barbara’s words as a vision from God. That is a mischaracterization of what is happening here. One can claim direct revelation from God without it necessarily being a vision. In my experience of reviewing awful sermons/teachings (and I review a LOT of sermons/teachings, good, bad and ugly), I’ve seen when people claim direct revelation (as Barbara did, according to her husband), but I’ve also seen people who claim legit face-to-face encounters (or visions) with God (Kim Walker-Smith comes to mind). Please understand that these are two different things. They’re both dangerous, but different nonetheless.
In closing, unless David and Barbara Green are reading the Bible, I don’t believe either are hearing from God. I hope that their business and other businesses that provide good, solid services (hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, gyms, etc.) survive this clear storm. However, I also hope that professing Christians (like the Greens) refrain from pulling the “God told me” (or “God laid on my heart”, etc.) card without backing it up with some clear, rightly-handled biblical passages.
NOTE: I have emailed this post to David Green at his email, email@example.com.