The Importance of Peace and Prosperity
Warm-Up: Jeremiah 29:1-14
In Jeremiah’s famous letter to the exiles, he offers them an important piece of encouragement in verse 7: “work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
For a bit of context, it’s important to remember that the nation of Israel had been destroyed. The people had been displaced, taken far from their home and forced to live in a foreign land with different beliefs, customs, and ideas. They would have felt the temptation to sabotage or revolt against their new communities, but instead God calls them to work for their peace and prosperity.
In a similar fashion, Christians today are like exiles. While many of us have not seen our homes burned to the ground and been forced to move countries, Christians are often surrounded by people with different beliefs, customs, and ideas. It can be tempting to coast through life and wait for our true home (heaven) where we know there will be peace and prosperity.
But instead of allowing us to wait, God calls us to work for the peace and prosperity of those around us now. Remember, your personal welfare is determined by the welfare of the neighborhood or city you live in. We are commanded to bless those around us, even if we don’t like them.
20 Ways to Work for the Peace and Prosperity of your City
I’ve split the following list into three categories: Community, Workplace, and Family.
1) Pray to the Lord for it: This comes right out of the Jeremiah passage. God listens to our prayers and they do make a difference. Not only that, when you pray for your city you will discover that your love for the city will also grow.
2) Love your neighbors: Communities work better when people are friendly. Invite them over for dinner, bring them cookies, watch their dog, listen to their stories and get to know your neighbors! Quality relationships are a great cure for loneliness, and they can also break down stereotypes.
3) Support local education efforts: If you want peace and prosperity to continue in the future, then you need to invest in the next generation as well. Teachers have a huge impact on kids, but not everyone can commit the time or energy to be a full-time teacher. Volunteer with the local school, support the school fundraisers, or ask for ways you can help ensure kids grow in knowledge. In fact, throughout history when missionaries would visit new communities, a school was one of the first things they would start.
4) Love the Sojourner: Deuteronomy 10:19 says, “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” A sojourner is a long-term resident, but possibly not a permanent one. The USA has many immigrants, from refugee to those with doctorate degrees. We’re called to love them all.
5) Teach English as a second language: Imagine you’re in a new country and you don’t speak the native language. Your kids are catching on quickly, but you’re not. It would be scary and daunting. Teaching immigrants English is one very practical way you can help those who are trying to embrace their new community (or teaching your native language if it isn’t English).
6) Research and Vote: Your vote matters in a country like the United States. While presidential elections get all the press, don’t forget the importance of your local elections. These can sometimes have a great impact on your city or neighborhood, and you can even get to know your city council members to ensure you’re voting for someone who will also work for the peace and prosperity of your city.
7) Bring someone a meal: While you can’t bring meals to everyone all the time, it’s always a great way to show someone you care. Meals can be especially helpful to families who have recently had a baby, undergone surgery, or lost a loved one. Don’t assume they’ll have plenty of meals provided anyway, because they may not. It never hurts to offer!
8) Get involved with your local church: While you yourself may grow spiritually by simply attending church, if you want to make a positive impact on your local community then you should also get involved. Volunteer as a greeter, help set-up chairs, teach Sunday school, start a discipleship group. Once you’ve identified your gifts, figure out how you can use them to help the church. In doing so, you’ll also find that you yourself will grow spiritually significantly more than if you just attended.
9) Start a discipleship or community group: Jesus focussed much of his time on earth with his disciples. After he ascended into heaven, they were fully equipped and went on to build the church around the world. Discipleship changes lives through good teaching, accountability, prayer, and life on life ministry. You can have a positive impact on your community, but if you teach 6 others to do the same, the impact begins to multiply.
10) Do your job well: Regardless of the size of your company, your community will benefit if you do a good job. Better products and better customer service are just the beginning. I used to know a guy who would always say, “many people work here, which means lots of families depend on salaries that can only be paid if the company succeeds. I owe these people my best.”
11) Mentor someone at work: When I started working in Marketing, I was pretty new to the field. Fortunately, I had a manager who had a passion for mentoring people. He taught me a great deal about marketing, and through his work I’ve been able to do my job better.
12) Teach others skills: I recently learned about an organization called Tekton Career Training that teaches and certifies immigrants to do jobs that are in demand like electrician, pipefitting, or carpentry. Odds are you are good at something – can you teach others to do the same?
13) Work with Integrity: There is a surprising lack of integrity in the working world. Stories about people like Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer have recently made headlines, but every couple years there seems to be huge scandals uncovered in different industries (entertainment, corporate, ministry, media, government – scandal reveals itself everywhere). You can’t avoid these industries, but you can work in them and demonstrate integrity that provides a safe environment that allows business to thrive.
14) Support local business: We’ve recently moved to a new city, but one of my goals is to have a restaurant where I have “the usual.” I won’t go there every week, but I’d go there enough that people know my name and I know theirs. Supporting the businesses in your neighborhood helps those business succeed and survive, and it also builds relationships and brings people together.
15) Love your Family: The family unit is foundational to society. It provides the environment where the next generation grows into adulthood. Stronger families make stronger communities, so make the effort to love and care for your spouse, siblings, parents, and/or children.
16) Manage your Finances: It’s hard to work for the prosperity of a place when you can’t manage your own finances. Do you need to be rich? Of course not – but you should know how to take care of your money and the needs of your family. Once your needs are met, you’re in a better position to help take care of the needs of others.
17) Give Generously: Giving generously is a major part of managing your finances. You certainly don’t have the time to get involved with every cause that you believe in, but you can support those causes and the people who need help by giving generously. Acts 20:35 reminds us, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
18) Look forward to the Kingdom: Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Just because you aren’t living in the full Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t mean we should forget about it. Living the values of the Kingdom of God will bless your local community, encourage others to investigate God’s Kingdom, and will give you hope when times are tough.
19) Travel: This may seem like an odd one – how does traveling away from my community help it? Mark Twain explained it this way, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
20) Serve as a family: Few things bring people together better than service. If you want to grow closer to your family and support the local community at the same time, find a way that you can all serve together.
And that’s 20 ways you can work for the peace and prosperity of your community!