Summary: Some leaders have not found the secret to being a true blessing to their followers. Instead, they lay burdens on the backs of those they lead. Nehemiah is a great example of a builder who blesses those he leads. Learn some lessons from his life.
Nehemiah saw something that was broken. God called him to rebuild. He did… and blessed the lives of others. This is always true. God’s leaders bless the lives of people. But I’m betting that you been around leaders who made life harder, not easier.
In verse 15 will see this phrase, “The former governors laid burdens on the people.”
If you’ve found your wall to rebuild – that unique calling God has for you – and you’ve built a team around you to help you rebuild, then you have to ask yourself, “Am I being a blessing to the people around me or am I being a burden to them?”
When a builder becomes a blessing…
Series: Here’s hope: Rebuilding a broken world
Text: Nehemiah 5, p. 355
Tony and Ann Kelling celebrate 50 years of marriage on Friday, October 11!
Last week, we looked at how to handle opposition from outside the dream team. Today, we’ll see how to handle conflict from within. The rebuilding of the walls had come to a screeching halt because some get-rich-quick boys were taking advantage of a famine to make some easy money. These were leaders who weren’t a blessing, but a burden!
As a builder, I become a blessing when…
I. … I hear the complaints. vv. 1-5
Sometimes, leaders don’t want to slow down a project for anything – even if the people doing the work are hurting. Not Nehemiah.
1 Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.
The people had stopped raising crops and started building walls. Now, they faced a crisis. The project had been moving forward until Nehemiah discovered that some government officials were actually profiting from the crisis in Jerusalem. When the people realized what was happening, and the extent to which it was happening, they were ready to declare war on the upper class. The people are saying, “You can’t eat walls. We’re going on strike! We have our rights!” So, they temporarily halted construction to complain to management. The work on the wall ground to a halt.
And the vision? Well, nobody was very concerned about the vision. They were losing everything and everybody dear to them. What good was a wall if you had nothing to eat?
The readiness of the rich to rip off the workers meant that the workers had…
Complaint #1. No food. v. 2
2 For there were those who said, "We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live."
Complaint #2. Bad loans. v. 3
3 There were others who said, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine."
There were loan sharks even back then. People needed food to eat, but they had no money. So, they said, “You can hold the title to my house. Just give me money to buy some food. I’ll pay you back month after month.” You can imagine the interest rates were high!
Complaint #3. High tax. v. 4
4 Also there were those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards.
Complaint #4. Child slaves. v. 5
5 "Now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others."
Once their land was mortgaged, they had no choice but to mortgage themselves and their children. In ancient times family members were actually used as collateral. If a man could not repay a loan, his wife and children could be sold as slaves. Failure to pay back the mortgages resulted in the money-lenders selling the worker’s sons and daughters into slavery.
The workers came to grips with the gravity of their situation and lost interest in rebuilding the wall. At that moment the felt need was to survive, not to rebuild. So, they complained.
Nehemiah could have said, “Look, everyone, putting up the walls is God’s priority for us all. I can’t bother with your complaints right now. Get your priorities straight!”
But Nehemiah saw that the people were overburdened and overtaxed. He backed off and said, “Let’s slow down. Let’s fix this problem.” He listened. Nehemiah never lost his sensitive spirit. He dropped everything to concentrate his thoughts on the outrage of his workers.
No leader worth the name every turns a blind eye to hurting people. One leader put it like this: “The man who is impatient with weakness will be defective in his leadership. The evidence of our strength lies not in streaking ahead but in a willingness to adapt our stride to the slower pace of our weaker brethren, while not forfeiting our lead. If we run too far ahead, we lose our power to influence.”