“You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money! We are doing all we can to redeem our Jewish relatives who have had to sell themselves to pagan foreigners, but you are selling them back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them? What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations? I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of charging interest.” –Nehemiah 5:7-10
When it rains, it pours. If rebuilding the wall wasn’t big enough a challenge, Nehemiah had to deal with enemies from the outside and he also had to rally his people amidst fatigue and fear. But probably the hardest challenge he had to deal with was the enemy within.
Famine struck and food was running low. Families had to resort to borrowing money or selling everything they have – which included the land they owned and the children they loved. The “nobles” didn’t take the noble path. Instead, they took advantage of the poor and championed their personal gain for wealth and power. Nehemiah was furious! Nehemiah saw that there was no point in rebuilding the wall if there was another wall that would keep them as slaves. There was no point strengthening the walls to face the outside challenges if the core, the people themselves, were collapsing on each other.
Proverbs remind us that open rebuke is better than hidden love. Our parents knew best when they didn’t tolerate us for doing something wrong and disciplined us. They knew that if they let it slide, it was only about time until it reaches a point when it cannot be fixed anymore. As a wallbuilder, Nehemiah had to call the difficult shots – the ones that are unpopular and uneasy. He couldn’t take something wrong happening before his eyes! He arrested the cycle of the powerful preying on the weak by confronting them. Nehemiah’s love for his people showed when he thought of how things in Jerusalem would be in the future – how they will conduct themselves and how they will treat each other.
When we see our loved ones going to the wrong path and making wrong decisions, do we love them enough to rebuke them? Are we courageous enough to confront them with love?