If you live in the State of Illinois, you are familiar with its current conditions. Countless families and businesses are leaving the state in search of more favorable conditions. According to a recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois’ decline is the result of “a state debt crisis largely driven by unfunded pension obligations, the country’s worst credit rating, weak job growth. Oh yes, and winter.” The same is said of our humble little town Bloomington/Normal. Daily complaints are issued about potholes, the arena and property taxes. All of them have us questioning if it is time to relocate.
As a business owner, this is a question that I wrestle with continuously. It appears that I can be far more successful – assured of success even – if I pack up and move to the sunshine, along with countless others. But, is it true? Are Arizona, Florida or Texas the Promised Land? Are they flowing with milk and honey? The mere thought of the Promised Land conjures up images of abundance and fertility. Lush landscapes and rich soil that promote health, growth and, yes, even wealth. Are you ready to move yet? Before you answer yes, consider one more thought.
We have been reading from Deuteronomy, watching patiently as the Israelites get ready to walk into the promised land. Before they go, Moses hits them with a whole bunch of rules. Chapter 5 reveals the Ten Commandments and now, in chapter 6, Moses expounds on them emphasizing their importance. Why? The answer is revealed in verse 3.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 6:3 ESV)
As I read it carefully, I see clearly that I have improperly assumed that “it will go well” with the Israelites because they are in the land that flows with milk and honey. How could it not? Verse 3, however, tells us otherwise. Moses is chiding them to listen and listen well, saying, “be careful to obey.” In this sentence, wellness clearly goes with obedience. It is, therefore, our obedience to God that promotes our health, growth, and wealth, not our location. In fact, the location is superfluous to the conversation.
Just like the Israelites, we are called to obedience right where we are. This is true whether we live in the Promised Land, or in the State of Illinois. In both places, God works. When we assume that our growth has come from, or is only possible when living in the Promised Land, we have stolen God’s glory. We honor God with our obedience and it is our obedience that God honors, no matter where we are.