In Part 4 of the 7-11 Principle I highlighted the challenge it is for American Christians in general to be sharers instead of plunderers. Followers of the 7-11 Principle seek the prosperity of their city first before seeking the prosperity of themselves–modeling God’s perfect love which always overflows toward others.
In this post I want to spend a little time talking about what prosperity means in the biblical text and what that might look like to apply it to our everyday lives.
The word translated “prosperity” in Jeremiah 29:7 and 11 is simply the Hebrew word shalom. This word is a rich word that means far more than “an absence of war” but a complete life where in every aspect of life things are good. Tim Keller’s sermons have influenced me greatly related to this idea of shalom and his thoughts are captured in his book Generous Justice from which I will paraphrase.
The Hebrew mind would have seen all of God’s creation as a great tapestry that has been skillfully woven together. Thus the state of shalom is nothing less than the flourishing of life relationally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. With this in mind then as sin entered the human race through rebellion against God in Genesis 3, we have the great unravelling of God’s good tapestry. Relationships are marked by blame and violence. Physically human beings now experience hardship, sickness and ultimately death. Emotionally we now feel guilt and shame because we can’t live up to our own expectations and fail to do what is right. Spiritually we are separated from God and seek self-salvation through legalism/religion or liberalism/irreligion. Lack of shalom is the great tearing apart of the fabric of life as it was meant to be.
With these thoughts in mind reading Jeremiah 29 has a richness that I think is significant. When God promises that He has plans to “prosper” you this is a comprehensive kind of peace He is bringing. God is promising a quality of relationships, emotional well-being, physical sustenance and spiritual intimacy that cannot be attained on our own. I’m not saying God is promising to heal every sickness or guarantee financial security, but He is promising to weave back together your life. But the 7-11 Principle holds here still. This promise of shalom is for those who are committed to seeking this same shalom for the city in which they live. God blesses those who seek to weave back together the torn apart fabric in their cities, neighborhoods and communities.
This might mean that in Christ’s name you start a tutoring center in an underserved neighborhood. Perhaps you would start getting to know neighbors and invite them over for dinner in order to make your apartment complex a more welcoming place. A group might use their artistic skills to renovate a building. Business leaders make sure they pay fare wages while still remaining profitable. Church leaders stand alongside the disenfranchised in order to change policies that are unjust. Art is created that promotes reconciliation instead of violence and sensuality. Bringing shalom to your city could look like a million different things but it always seeks to weave back together something that was torn apart.
In many ways this is living out the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Is there poverty in God’s presence? Is there racism or greed? Do kids go hungry? Is there disease in heaven? Bringing God’s shalom to our cities looks like a foretaste of God’s kingdom that He will establish on earth when Jesus returns.
As you look around your city, where are the torn pieces of fabric? What might God want you or your church to respond to? Do you have a community you can do some prayerful imagination with?
Easter reminds us that Jesus took the cross to take the blame for our sin so that He could give us His shalom. He allows Himself to be torn apart so that we could be woven back together. His resurrection is the beginning of the undoing of the chaos that sin brought into God’s good world. His ascension marked the beginning of His body, the Church, continuing His restoration project on earth until He returns. The Church is to bring God’s shalom into every area of life we can imagine. This includes people recognizing their torn apart lives caused by sin and submitting themselves to the only true Lord who can piece their broken lives back together. But it also means more than this because Christ’s shalom never stops with an individual but overflows through a person to others. What a privilege to be part of the weaving back together of God’s good creation.
May we live out the 7-11 Principle this Easter as a demonstration that He truly is risen, sharing God’s shalom with our cities and neighbors as we weave back together torn apart places.