Your money or your life
Lord, help me to become engaged enough to get angry about injustice, and for that anger to lead to action.
Read NEHEMIAH 5:1–19
 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews.  Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”  Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”  Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.  Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”  When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.  I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them  and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.  So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?  I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest!  Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them-one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”  “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised.  I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.  Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year-twelve years-neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.  But the earlier governors-those preceding me-placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.  Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.  Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations.  Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.  Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people. Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWhy is Nehemiah angry?
When I worked for our local charity for the visually impaired, the people I visited would often assume I was a volunteer—and give me a big metaphorical pat on the back! I was always rather embarrassed to confess that I got paid for it. There was really no reason for me to feel that way; I had to earn my living, after all. The rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem was a real labor of love: the people had given up their regular sources of income to work unpaid on the walls, and many were getting into debt. And, to make things worse, it was fellow Jews who were charging exorbitant interest and putting their people into financial hardship (5). Finally this is brought to Nehemiah’s notice, and he is rightly angry (6). As usual he is quick to get the offenders together and explain to them what needs to be done (7–11). Nehemiah calls the people to it and leads by example (10). Debt management is a growing problem in today’s society, with some loan companies charging horrendous rates of interest. Do we need more Nehemiahs who will take a stand for those most in need?
Make a commitment to find out what is available in your area for those in financial and material need.
Righteous God, help me to advance justice for those who are taken advantage of.