Nehemiah 5  Pt 2           Abusive leadership

Our news seems at times to be a relentless liturgy to the abuse of leadership. Be it individuals abusing others, companies abusing employees or countries asserting their power over others it seems at times that might and tyranny rule. The large and powerful abuse the weak and small.

This community of faith, the called out, gathered people of God who are rebuilding Jerusalem. Who have been gathered to reflect Gods glory and display his grace have blown it big time.

In vs 1-5 we read an appauling account of financial positional abuse amongst Gods people.

1 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 For there were those who said, With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive. 3 There were also those who said, We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine. 4 And there were those who said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards. 

Though many of these returned exiles had been bought out of slavery to gentiles in Baylon by the gifts of others. Now upon return due to a famine (vs 3) they are forced to mortgage there lands. vs 3 Just to get food. The Jews with the grain are charging inflated prices for the basics of life. These people from the surrounding areas were the families of men who were serving on the wall sacrificially. Without the income from the father they are so impoverished that they can not buy food and have to borrow money to pay taxes vs 4.

To top all that off they sell them selves and their children as slaves to repay debts. vs 5. They are powerless to effect change vs 5 as others have acquired their lands and are charging exorbitant fees. Who are these others who are bringing about this situation… sadly they are fellow Jews their brothers and sisters under God.vs 5.

1 Tim 5 1-2 instructs us how we should view one another if we are part of the family of God. 1 Tim 1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, 2 older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity. 

You don’t sell your mother brother father or sister into slavery do you?

Yet here this complaint is brought by poorer Jews against richer Jewish brothers. vs 1

Slavery or the paying of ones debts by becoming a slave was a common enough practice in those times. There were laws about how this should be abministered between the people of God.

Deut 15: 12-18  So a slave for 6 yrs then release and for debtors the debt burden released every 7th year.

Deut 15 1-2  1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbour. He shall not exact it of his neighbour, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed.

The result of these declarations was Deut 15: 4 But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.

It appears these practices are suffering from severe neglect in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The fact is that people are profiting from the misery and poverty of others.

* Now we don’t do that today do we? clothing sweat shops; child labour and prostitution, cheap labour of illegal immigrant human trafficking and abuse of asylum seekers.…

* What about in church where a vocal minority run the church and disempower others, or those who give more in the offering expect more power in the church. We can all escalate our position over others via power, governance, self-righteousness etc) We can take advantage of the powerless or those we make powerless.

This wasn’t the plan God or Nehemiah had for his people.

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. John Dalberg-Acton

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”  Abraham Lincoln

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”   C.S. Lewis

Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature – opposition to it, is his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.  Abraham Lincoln

Gal 3: 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

““Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”

Abraham Lincoln