The Passage: Nehemiah 5:9-11
The Point: There is a right kind of fear.
Proverbs 9:10 famously begins by stating, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” We can understand from this proverb that when we don’t fear God we make unwise decisions. When we forsake the fear of the Lord we become selfish. We begin to mistreat our brothers and our sisters. We steal from them. We forsake their needs. And what’s worse, when we fail to have godly fear, we encourage the mocking of God by godless people! Our brothers are mistreated and our Father is mocked when we don’t fear the Lord.
Nehemiah perceived that this was the root of sin within his Jewish brothers who were oppressing their kinsmen. According to the Mosaic Law, Jews were not supposed to take interest from their brothers and sisters when they loaned each other money or food. This is exactly what the nobles and officials were doing. Thus Nehemiah says, “The thing that you are doing is not good.” But Nehemiah doesn’t just tell them what isn’t good; he shows them what is good.
God-fearing leaders take the first step. They abandon selfishness, and they pick up righteousness. They lend without expecting anything in return. They look out for the sake of their brothers and sisters. They encourage those of wealth and status to consider the needs of the less fortunate.
Nehemiah understood that God’s people were facing an adverse situation. As a God-fearing leader, he was able to lead by example. He lent money and gave food to the people without piling up interest on them. And he wanted the nobles and officials to do the same out of fear of the Lord and for the reputation of God’s name. Nehemiah knew that where the fear of God is present, wisdom and righteousness follow, God is praised, and His people are cared for. We can take up Nehemiah’s mantle and do the same for others when they wrong us or have needs we can meet.
- What did Nehemiah declare was “not good?”
- What did Nehemiah point out as the root of their sin that led to the taunts of the other nations?
- How did Nehemiah lead by example?
- Are you “dangling” anything over someone’s head?
- What does this passage of Scripture encourage you to do?
- Is there any area of your life in which you need to abandon selfishness?