24: Work for the common good (Jeremiah 29:7)

Scripture ReadingJeremiah 29:7

In Jeremiah chapter 29, the prophet draws attention to God’s intention that his people’s work should bless and serve the communities around them, and not only the people of Israel.

False prophets in exile assured the exiled Jews that God’s favor would always rest on Israel, to the exclusion of its neighbors. Babylon would fall, Jerusalem would be saved, and the people would soon return home. Jeremiah attempted to counteract that false proclamation with God’s true word to them: Babylon would be this generation’s only home. God called the people to work the land there diligently: “build houses…plant gardens and eat what they produce.” The Jews were meant to flourish there as the people of God, even though it was a place of punishment and repentance for them. Moreover, the Jews’ success in Babylon was tied to Babylon’s success.

This call to civic responsibility twenty-six hundred years ago is valid today. We are called to work toward the prosperity of the entire community, not merely for our own limited interests. Like the Jews of Jeremiah’s day, we are far from perfect. We may even be suffering for our faithlessness and corruption. Nonetheless we are called and equipped to be a blessing to the communities in which we live and work.

The work of Christians in their faithfulness to God is intended for the good of everyone, beginning with those who are not God’s people, and extending through them to God’s people themselves. Successful business leaders understand that product development, marketing, sales and customer support are effective when they put the customer first. This is perhaps the most profound economic principle in Jeremiah, that working for the good of others is the only reliable way to work for your own good.

Prayer: Lord, you say to “seek the welfare of the city” and “pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” I pray for the welfare of my community and my workplace. Show me how to bless those around me through my work, both paid and unpaid. Amen.

For Further Exploration: Read Bless Wider Society Through Your Work (Jeremiah 29) from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.

Author: Theology of Work Project

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