Scripture: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce...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.”
This is an extraordinary text revealing the will of God for the people of Israel living in exile in Babylon. One might think that God would want the Israelites to rebel against Babylon and overthrow the regime that had destroyed God’s temple, decimated the city of Jerusalem and carried off its brightest leaders to a foreign land. But that’s not what God wanted. God wanted them to make the best of it. They had been defeated by the Babylonians because of their lack of faithfulness to the LORD. Now they needed to take their medicine.
This actually becomes an ongoing word for God’s people in every age. It is the call to seek the welfare of the land they are in, even if it’s a foreign land.
I started a creation care non-profit a couple of years ago because I realized that my new grandson might live into the 22nd century. And the question that haunted me was, “What kind of world am I leaving him and his contemporaries?” What kind of grandfather simply attends birthday parties and soccer games, when the entire planet is facing an existential crisis? I wanted to find a way to love him well. But sometimes this work can be disheartening. I can perpetually feel like I’m in the minority, a lonely voice crying in the wilderness. People are buying and consuming and spending without regard for future generations. We are removed from the exploitation of the land, the abusive treatment of animals, and the unjust systems that keep human beings in social and financial bondage. Those of a certain theological bent may think about it and say dismissively, “Jesus is coming back and creating a new heaven and a new earth anyway. Why worry about the earth?” Of course, we don't normally take this position when it comes to our retirement accounts or trying to "save the country" from the infidels, whoever they may be.
It leads me to describe my work as “young David loading his slingshot with a small stone, hoping to hit Goliath in the head and knocking him down.” I walk around scrounging around for a few more stones to keep in my satchel.
Today is a little different. I feel better. President Biden has signed the largest climate change bill in the history of our country, investing $369 billion in climate and energy funding. There will be tax breaks for electric vehicles, solar and wind energy and next generation batteries. It will also invest in agriculture, encouraging farmers to adopt sustainable sewing and harvesting practices. Forest preservation is part of the bill, investing in protecting and planting more trees which are our primary source in absorbing carbon emissions. Experts estimate this bill will help reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. 30-40% by the year 2030. It is not everything needed, but it does indicate some are paying attention and are willing to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you.”
Even if this bill wasn’t passed, I would feel compelled to seek the “peace and prosperity” for the land into which I’ve been called. The New Testament writers would refer to it as “seeking the common good.” Caring for creation, taking care of the earth, listening to the voice of the trees is something we can do in exile or at home. We can do what is right for the earth when we are in the majority or the minority. So put a few stones in your slingshot and keep your eyes open for a giant who wants to decimate what is rightfully God’s precious possession. You might finally get a hit.