The Poor

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When the people of God are at their weakest, that is when the true test of faithfulness arises.

In Nehemiah 5, as the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls faced difficulties and economic hardship set in, an ugly division threatened to undermine the entire work from within. Those who had once been slaves together were now exploiting their own kinsmen. Nehemiah saw beyond the outward problems to the root issue – had God’s instruction been forsaken for the ease of unjust profit?

In confronting this crisis, we discover the essential markers of a faithful community under trial. Though challenges come from every side, the greatest threats often lie not without but within.

Let us examine how Nehemiah reorients his people to uphold one another with compassion instead of oppression, as befits those called to bless the world.

  1. There was economic hardship and a famine hitting the people of Jerusalem as they worked to rebuild the walls. Many were going into debt and some even had to sell their children into slavery to pay debts.
  2. Nehemiah was angry when he heard about this situation. He confronted the nobles and officials who were charging interest on loans to fellow Jews, which was against God’s law.
  3. Nehemiah reminded them that as God’s people, they should show compassion to each other, especially the vulnerable, and not exploit or oppress one another for profit. Their actions were harming the community.
  4. The people agreed to stop charging interest and return people’s possessions they had taken. However, the underlying economic issues remained.
  5. Nehemiah drew lessons about ensuring God’s people treat each other justly and with compassion, putting faithfulness to God over legal or normal but unjust practices. Concern for the poor and vulnerable should be a hallmark of God’s faithful people.
  6. Overall the text addresses how God’s people must live according to His word, not just outward practices but also how they treat one another, especially the weak among them. Their faithfulness depends more on this than external obstacles.

In a time of crisis, Nehemiah shows us that faithful reform begins from within – with each person scrutinizing their own attitudes and actions according to God’s standard of justice, mercy and fellowship.

Are we seeking first his righteousness in all things, putting the good of others above private gain? Or have we conformed to ways of this world that leave the vulnerable exposed for the sake of profit and preference?

God calls us not just to outward signs of devotion but to manifest his character among us with tangible works of love, care and fellowship, especially for the lowly. May the fear of the Lord so shape our hearts that others encountering our community come to know the God who sets the captive free. Let us go and do likewise.


Nehemiah 5

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