Nehemiah 5: Injustices and resolutions : Finances and Debt
1 Introduction: What danger is there in Debt? Can you give any examples from your own life?
I can give a testimony that God provided so that we did not have to go deep into debt. We have always been very careful with our funds so that we did not go into debt. We always pay off our credit cards every month. We do not put anything on a credit card that we cannot pay for the same month. We save up for major purchases. We had 60% down on our house and paid the mortgage in 7 years. We paid for our last car with cash
2 What did the Mosaic law say about extracting usury (interest on money borrowed)? Ex 22:25 -27; Lev 25:35 - 37; Deut 23:19,20; 24:10-13
Exo 22:25 If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.
Exo 22:26 If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset,
Exo 22:27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
Lev 25:35 - 38 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
Deu 23:19,20 Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess.
Deu 24:10-13 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.
3 How should this apply to today? Should the church work on the same principles? What about those that are perpetually in debt and do not know how to take care of their money? For who does the Sabbath Year 2016, 2023 etc. & Year of Jubilee 2038 apply to? Can we mentor people who have financial problems?
God has blessed us so that we can bless others. Before we give to others however, we must be sure that we can meet our own obligations first. There is no sense lending to someone else when we then have to go out and borrow money ourselves. Pro 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Therefore conditions are possible. If someone asks for money we can work out a repayment schedule and conditions if they are not met. We can also insist that proper budgeting be done to meet those goals of repayment. If we really follow the Biblical model, then we can only lend with the Sabbath year in mind. Our society does not allow people to sell themselves into servitude for money.
4 How did Nehemiah, as governor, resolve this conflict when the guilty refused to admit guilt and make things right?
He thought through the situation(v 7) then he told them what they had done wrong. It appears that they did not repent at the time he accused them as a group. He called a large meeting to deal with them
5 How did Nehemiah appeal to the abusers? (v 8 - 11)
At the meeting he told them that they were buying and selling their own people who Nehemiah had sought to free from the gentiles. He told them what they were doing was wrong and that they should follow God's ways and give back all the interest and security that was taken when they made the loan. He made them make a promise to give everything back on a religious oath using the priests. Then he pronounced a curse if they would not follow through on their promise.
6 How did Nehemiah lead by example? V 14 - 18. How was Nehemiah different from the previous governors? What was his motivation (v.15)
Nehemiah had loaned money as well (v 10). Nehemiah did not charge any taxes by taking food from people allowed by the government. Previous governors had taxed them forty shekels (500grams) of silver as well as food and drink. (Aug, 2013 silver was $0.7478 / gm. (500*0.7478= $373.91US)
Nehemiah did not act that way because out of reverence to the Lord.
7 What character qualities can we see in Nehemiah in this chapter?
He was willing to tackle tough social issues. (Had inner strength) He was able to convince the nobles and officials they were doing something wrong. (Persuasive). He led by example. Nehemiah was unselfish in his work - willing to pay his own way.
8 Have you been in a situation of need and God has used others to meet your needs? Can you share that with the group. How can the church effectively meet the needs of people?
In seminary, our church helped us with $100 per month. That was about enough money to buy groceries for us each month. As missionaries, churches in Canada and US supported us in Japan.
We should be individually looking to help others in need. How can we find people in financial need here? Can we work together to build each other up when there are needs?
9 Can you see any injustices or problems in our current economic system? Is there anything which speaks to these from the Bible?
There are many over priced items. There is a lack of training on how to get the best deals.
Currently people are encouraged to spend money on things they do not need. They do not look at long term costs (including interests in purchase). People are not taught to budget but are encouraged to spend through TV, magazine and other kinds of advertising. We need to teach our children how to shop wisely and not go into debt.
Quality products may cost more but often last longer and provide better value for the money put out.
10 What responsibility do believers have to the widow, alien, stranger and brother in need? What does the New Testament teach about financially helping others? Rom 12:13, II Cor 8:14, Eph 4:28, Phil. 4:16, I Tim 5:3, 16, James 1:27, I Jn 3:17
Rom 12:13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
2Co 8:8 - 22 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.
Eph 4:28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Php 4:15 - 19 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
1Ti 5:3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.
1Ti 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
Jas 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
1Jn 3:16 - 18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
11 Do you know of anyone you could help or perhaps we all could help?
Leadership is able to partner individuals together to effectively bring about a solution. Sometimes a number of people need to work together to accomplish a bigger task. Ie. Seminary, or sending missionaries. One church cannot do the work by themselves but by partnering it can get the job done.
12 The people pointed out a violation of the Mosaic law on the part of the leadership. Nehemiah dealt with it so that it did not derail the wall project. When leadership does not follow scripture, how can we appeal?
This problem started with the people crying out during a time of famine. Nehemiah did not deal with just food distribution but found a deeper problem - over taxation and interest which took property from the people so they could not produce their own crops. Nehemiah appealed to those in violation of the law that the unbelievers would mock God if they did not follow God's ways. They should walk in the fear of the Lord. When we loose our sense of God's judgement, we often begin to ignore God and "do our own thing".
13 What does it mean to walk in the fear God? ( Neh 5:9 "ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God) Neh 5:15
Fear of God means to recognize His greatness. We cannot do things in secret. We need to be holy.
2 Cor 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
I Pet 1:15 - 17 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy. Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
14. What can we learn about Nehemiah from his prayer in 5:19?
We can ask for God's favor for following His ways. I get the sense that this was difficult for Nehemiah to do and that it caused a lot of inner turmoil. Confronting others who are doing wrong is not an easy task.