Summary: The aim of this sermon is get us to reexamine our self for selfishness and recommit our selves to taking up our cross and following Christ.
August 31, 2003
A. [Excuses: Any Will Do?, Citation: Zig Ziglar, Something Else to Smile About (Thomas Nelson, 1999); submitted by Bonne Steffen, Wheaton, Illinois]
Zig Ziglar writes:
My brother, the late Judge Ziglar, loved to tell the story of the fellow who went next door to borrow his neighbor’s lawnmower. The neighbor explained that he could not let him use the mower because all the flights had been canceled from New York to Los Angeles.
The borrower asked him what canceled flights from New York to Los Angeles had to do with borrowing his lawnmower. "It doesn’t have anything to do with it, but if I don’t want to let you use my lawnmower, one excuse is as good as another."
B. I think that most Christians hear a story like that it is easy to smile.
1. Perhaps it is easy to smile because we think that we are not selfish and don’t have a problem with that.
2. Let’s see what we can learn about selfLESSness from the fifth chapter of Nehemiah.
I. Rightful resentment
Nehemiah 5:1-11 (NIV), Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, "We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain." 3 Others were saying, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine." 4 Still others were saying, "We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons 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." 6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, "You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!" So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: "As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!" They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. 9 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? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them--the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil."
A. Now this is an interesting story…
1. To understand what’s going on, we really have to pay attention to the first verse.
2. Some of the people were raising a great outcry against their own people.
3. They raised a great outcry against their own brothers; their own extended family.
4. Before Nehemiah had even arrived in Jerusalem there was an economic recession.
a. It was still gong on and the people were having a very difficult time making ends meet.
b. They were resorting to the last resort to stay financially solvent.
c. They had to borrow money and the interest was eating up what little money they had.
d. So they were selling some of their family members into slavery.
e. It was an awful situation, especially when we focus on verse one.
f. This wasn’t King Artaxerxes’ people that they owed money to; this was their own people; these were Jews that were exacting this usury or interest on them that caused them to sell family members into slavery.
g. Men were selling their daughters to their own relatives in order to stay financially solvent.
h. It wasn’t to a foreign government that they were selling to; it was their own relatives.
B. Notice what those who were crying out said…
1. “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
2. “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
3. “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 countrymen and though our sons 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.”