Seek the Prosperity of your City
After the siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., many of the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. They were forced to live as exiles in a strange land amongst a strange people. The ways of the Babylonians were foreign to the Jewish people. They worshipped different gods using mysterious methods. The Babylonians did not recognize the One True God of Israel, and thus the Jews found themselves in a city filled with immorality and debauchery. Instinctually, some of the God-fearing Jews probably wanted to separate themselves from the culture. Some probably wanted to throw their hands up and say this is not our problem. If these treacherous people want to ignore God, throw away their lives, and ruin their city, then so be it. What does this have to do with us? Why should we be concerned with what happens to them? We will watch out for our people and our own households. This may have been their plan and attitude toward the people of Babylon, but it was not God’s. Instead, God told them in Jeremiah, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
You see, God’s plan is always better than ours; it is always more comprehensive. While many of the Jews were only concerned with their family, their people, and their nation, God was, and still is, concerned with all the peoples of the earth. While some of the Jews thought they could isolate themselves from the culture around th em and remain unscathed by it, God was teaching them that their well-being was directly connected to the well-being of the city they were abiding in. He told them to pray for their city and to seek its prosperity. In doing so, not only would the city benefit, but the exiles would as well.
As Christians today, it can sometimes be easy to fall into indifference about our city. There are strange people in our city that do not know our God and do not practice His ways. Should we just ignore their plight? Should we be unconcerned about what they do? When we see teenagers killing one another weekly, or committing suicide at record highs, or dropping out of school at a rate of 50%, should we simply say that’s not our problem? When we see women abused, men unable to work, and drugs running rampant, should we merely turn a blind eye because it doesn’t directly affect us? Of course not. Just as God called the Jews in Babylon to seek the prosperity of their city and pray for it, we are to do the same. We should seek the well-being of all the people in our city, in our nation, and in our world. As Christians, we should be concerned when we see crime in our city escalating and graduation rates dropping. We should care that there are so many unwed teenage mothers, many of whom are choosing to have abortions. We should be outraged when we see acts of injustice and oppression. We should be appalled that so many young people in our city are turning to drugs, violence, and murder. But feeling concerned, appalled, and outraged is not enough. Those feelings should lead to actions. To begin, we should pray for our city and its problems. From there, we must find ways to share the light of Christ and His ways with those in our city – for there is no way anyone can prosper without Him. We can no longer sit in our churches on Sunday mornings and expect the people in the city around us to change. We must show the lost that Christ cares deeply about them by showing them that we care deeply about them. We must be actively involved in their lives and their problems. Perhaps then, we will begin to see the promised peace of God, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of hurting people in our city, our nation, and our world. For if they prosper, we too shall prosper.