I’ve recently witnessed an interesting phenomenon. I regularly hear people from my home country, the United States, complain about all that is wrong with our country. My social media is regularly full of all the problems my compatriots (of various persuasions) have with the U.S. Conversely, people in the country where I currently live would give ANYTHING to live in the U.S. To them, the U.S. is a land full of opportunity, a land that would almost instantly solve their problems. This is a classic case of “the grass is always greener.” We are often good at seeing all the problems where we are, and all the good wherever we aren’t. We think: if only I could live there, work there, go to that church, have their resources, etc. THEN my life would be awesome.
There is a great example of this issue in Jeremiah chapters 28-29. Israel had just been conquered by Babylon, and a large portion of the people was sent into exile. The people were in a panic, with everyone seeking greener pastures. Into this situation walked a man named Hananiah. He told everyone not to despair because in two years all their problems would be solved!
Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.” Jeremiah 28:3-4
The problem, however, was that this short and easy route was completely made up. Hananiah was offering the people a greener pasture that simply did not exist. In my experience, our world LOVES to offer us these fake green pastures. We are told that if we just buy this product or take this action then everything will be better. If we are not careful, we can spend much of our lives chasing after these fake green pastures. In response to Hananiah, Isaiah responds with reality. He explains that the exile will be seventy years, not two. However, instead of simply wishing for greener pastures, Isaiah offers the following advice:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 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. Jeremiah 29:5-7
Look at Isaiah’s advice: do good WHEREVER it is God has put you. Instead of complaining about your town, help make it better. Instead of whining about your church, make it better. Don’t just look for easier and greener pastures, but serve God exactly where you are, turning wherever you are into a greener pasture.