But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Because of their rebellion against the Lord, God’s people found themselves removed from their beloved city of Jerusalem. Babylon was now their home and would be for seventy years. Instead of a city with God’s temple at the center, they were among a people who did not know the Lord. Instead of a land of promise, they resided in a land of punishment. It would have been easy to despise their new city. Yet they were to seek the welfare of this city and pray for it.
We who are God’s people today would do well to similarly consider our cities and nations. Our land may not be Christian, but that does not mean we do not seek its welfare. In fact, it is in such a land that Jeremiah instructs the people of God to seek its welfare. Babylon was not Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar was not King David.
We are exiles or pilgrims in strange lands. What does it mean to seek the welfare of the city? The English word welfare simply means that the city would fare well. We want our cities to be well in the course of the day. We seek societal stability, peace and prosperity.
The last phrase of the verse in Jeremiah indicates that we will find our own welfare when our city fares well. Gleaning from this text, we see what this seeking looks like.
We pray for our city.
Ask God to invade your city. Ask him to quell violence and injustice where you live. Ask him to send liberty and prosperity to your town. Ask that his will be done and his name be hallowed.
We live our lives.
In the preceding verses, God’s people were instructed to build houses, plant gardens and increase their families. How different would our cities be if the people of God lived godly lives day to day? We may be exiles or pilgrims, but we are still to establish ourselves in our cities.
We establish our families.
Jeremiah’s instructions regarded being married and having children. God may call some to singleness or such, but the general pattern is that our lives are to be centered on our families.
We have the individual, the family and the city. Too often we merely connect the individual to the city. We should stress more the individual connection to the family and then the family connection to the city. In a day in which the makeup of the family has been turned on its head, how much more should the Christian family thrive in our cities?
In these ways we will be seeking the welfare of our cities…and our own welfare.