In Nehemiah 5 there is a great outcry of injustice among the Jews. In order to eat, pay the king’s taxes, and stay alive poorer people are having to sell their sons and daughters into slavery, mortgage off their fields, vineyards, and homes. When Nehemiah heard these charges he brought them before the nobles and officials (5:7-11).
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.”
They consented to Nehemiah’s orders. The problem was that all of these things were warned against doing in the law of Moses. Nehemiah then spent the last half of this chapter talking about his governship and how he tried to act justly for the people. As Christians we should work towards helping the poor and lifting people out of the spiral of despair in order to provide ownership of their situation. The application is not government programs on a long-term basis, but church partnerships to encourage and facilitate personal and spiritual growth for people in their community around them.
God, help me to serve the poor and bring the church into a more just orientation to helping fight the poverty that is rampant in our land. That poverty is not always material, but often spiritual and economic.
Grow your church to be the light and partner with people who are hurting in the immediate community. We know you are strong enough to bear all our burdens and be the hope for people to be lifted out of the pit of despair. In Jesus name, Amen.