One of the more difficult issues for a leader to handle is internal strife. When your employees, volunteers, or followers begin believing, whether actual or perceived, that they are being abused by others within your organization then you as a leader have a real problem that must be addressed. It can enrage you as a leader when you find that some within your group are actual taking advantage of others. It is important to ensure that anger is focused, controlled, and causes improvement. That is how Nehemiah dealt with his.
Some of the Jewish brethren were charging others exorbitant interest on loans for necessities, so much to the point that Jewish children were being sold into slavery to cover the cost of the usury. Worse yet, these workers could not even redeem their children because their land and vineyards had already been taken from them. Nehemiah addressed these unscrupulous nobles and rulers:
“And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, ‘Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.’ So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, ‘According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?’ Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, ‘What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them.’” (Nehemiah 5:6-11)
So Nehemiah got mad and blasted the people who the others said were abusing them. No, that’s not what happened…that sadly is how too many of us deal with issues. Nehemiah did get angry but he first seriously thought about the issue. It is probably not too much of a stretch to think a man such as Nehemiah included in his serious thought prayer and fasting. After he had sought the Lord’s will, then he “rebuked the nobles and rulers.” Notice he didn’t call them scumbags or the greedy rich people; he told them the facts. “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.”
Then Nehemiah called these men out publicly. Would not it be wonderful today to see a leader honestly and factually call out greedy businessmen and politicians? Nehemiah didn’t use political posturing or class warfare when he publicly addressed these men, he simply said “What you are doing is not good.” And then he asked them a very important question…imagine a leader today publicly asking this question? “Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?” Do you see Nehemiah’s approach? He is not only appealing to their professionalism, but also to their relationship with God.
Next Nehemiah does not promise the oppressed free healthcare, a job, and a tax rebate on taxes they never paid. No, he tells the oppressors to stop oppressing and to pay back all they have taken. And of course these men being so greedy refused. No, because Nehemiah was doing the Lord’s will these men repented and made a vow publicly.
“So they said, ‘We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say.’ Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.” (Nehemiah 5:12)
Imagine a president today getting a public acknowledgement and vow from greedy businessmen and politicians and his calling in a pastor to exact an oath from these men? Can you imagine the outcry? Nevertheless that is exactly what we need. And not just that but Nehemiah took it one step farther.
“Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, ‘So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.’ And all the assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.” (Nehemiah 5:13)
You might be thinking, “Well that’s all well and good Bro Dave but we’ve seen that type of political posturing for far too long and yet there is no improvement because they do not practice what they preach.”
Tomorrow we will see how Nehemiah’s actions were louder than his words.
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