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The Israelites’ Money Problem And Nehemiah’s Solution

The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God?
–Nehemiah 5:9

The Israelites who were rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem had disregarded God’s principles about spending, saving, and indebtedness. But Nehemiah pointed out another culprit in their financial difficulty. In Nehemiah 5:7, he said, “I . . . contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, ‘You are exacting usury, each from his brother!’” Notice what he did. First of all, he identified the problem. He said, “The reason we are having all of this backbiting is that you are charging interest.” Then he appealed to their conscience. Verse 8 says, “We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?” When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, there were a lot of Jews who had been sold to other nations in slavery. So he began a repurchase program to buy back those slaves so that they could live free. Now he was looking at these rich Jews and saying, “We raised all of this money to free our people, and now you are the ones who are selling them into slavery?” He pressed the point further in verse 9: “Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?” He was saying, “We have become a laughingstock. Our enemies are saying, ‘Look at those Jews. They are so filled with greed, all they do is buy and sell one another.’” This was hurting God’s reputation. That was the problem.

Second, Nehemiah simplified the solution. If you are a leader, it is not enough to point out a problem; you have to have a solution. That is what Nehemiah proposed in verse 10: “And likewise I, my brothers, and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let’s do without this interest.” If God points out a sin in your life, you do not need to come up with a program that says, “Today I am going to sin a little bit less than I did yesterday. Then the next day I am going to sin a little bit less, and so on.” No, if God convicts you of something in your life that is displeasing to Him, break it off right then. That is what Nehemiah was saying. Then in verse 11 he went one step further. He said, in effect, “Give back their property, and all the interest that you charged as well.” That was his solution.

Third, Nehemiah exemplified the right attitude. Interestingly, the rich nobles were not the only ones violating God’s Word in charging interest. Even Nehemiah himself had been blinded by greed. Look back at his amazing confession in verse 10. He said, “And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.” Perhaps Nehemiah had thought to himself, “If I did not charge interest, I would not be able to lend as much money to help other people.” But the Spirit of God convicted Nehemiah. He said, “I need to be the one to set the example.” Whether you are leading in your family, your company, or your church, leaders lead by example. Yes, people are listening to your words, but more importantly, they are watching your actions. Nehemiah set an example in his own finances.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Avoiding The Dollar Holler” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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