Monday, July 23, 2018

An ancient complaint

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 4-6; Psalm 49

TO CHEW ON: "I also with my brethren and my servants am lending them money and grain. Please let us stop this usury!" Nehemiah 5:10

The complaints of the people to Nehemiah in today's reading remind me of the modern Occupy Movement of 2011. It was a protest against unfairness in society. Rooted in the financial collapse of 2008, people were protesting many things including the use of tax money to bail out big businesses and banks. While executives of the companies (who many perceived to be the cause of the problem) got huge bonuses and severance packages, the little guy lost his job and then his house because he could no longer pay his debts.

It appears that an economic crisis had also hit Jerusalem and its surroundings just prior to Nehemiah's arrival. A footnote in my Bible explains, "A famine along with the need to pay taxes had forced many families into insolvency. Nehemiah's presence emboldened the dispossessed to cry out for justice" - Study notes, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 618.

The confidence of the poor people in Nehemiah was well placed. Outraged by conditions, he took up their cause. He assembled the nobles and rulers and:

  • Rebuked them (Nehemiah 5:7).
  • Reasoned with them, showing how it didn't make sense that they had freed Jewish citizens held captives by other nations but were holding their own people to ransom with debt (Nehemiah 5:8).
  • Told them to stop charging interest (Nehemiah 5:10). Actually what they were doing to their brothers was against Moses' law (Leviticus 25:35-38).
  • Commanded them to restore absconded property along with some of the interest that had been paid to them (Nehemiah 5:11).
He himself was a good example, in that he lent the poor people money and grain (Nehemiah 5:10) and refused to live the customary high lifestyle of a governor himself (Nehemiah 5:15).

There is a place for us to be champions of justice in our society too. Though I don't suggest aligning oneself with any particular modern cause, there are things we can do. As a start, we can treat others fairly, lend or give money when we see a need, and live modestly and within our means, like Nehemiah did.

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me an attitude of justice for the poor and the generosity and willingness to help when I can with what I have. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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