Really, if you think about it, most projects, church or otherwise, comes down to money. The same was true of the people of the City. After a while, mortgage payments came due. Food bills came due. Money was needed to keep going. The rich people of the city began to take advantage of the situation by charging high interest (from 1 percent monthly, to as high as an annual rate of 20 percent), which actually forced some to sell their children into slavery to pay off the large sums.
Nehemiah was beyond angry! He assembled the nobles together and chewed on them for a while. He accused them of undoing the redemption that was coming up the land. Nehemiah had been busied with redeeming the families of Judah back from the foreigners, but here they, the nobles, were, reselling the children back into slavery. The nobles were taking advantage of the situation. Nehemiah condemned them, reminding them to ‘walk in the fear of our God’ so as to not again be mocked by the foreign nations. He had just spent great wealth, time, and his own prestige to restore the walls of the city, to redeem the people from slavery, and those in charge where pushing the redemption away, running again back to the comforts of slavery.
The people were defenseless, but Nehemiah moved on, telling them that he and his family had been lending as well, without interest. Nehemiah didn’t take his position as something to be adored, but a mere title, I believe. He lived like the people did, expecting nothing more than they simply because of his position. They had their duties; his was just to over see it. He ordered all the fields and other collateral to be restored to the people of the city – and not only that, but the interest as well. The nobles swore – literally, in front of the priests – that they would return every thing to the people. This was no time to make money, but a time to sacrifice.
See, Nehemiah was different. He didn’t have to be there; he had a comfortable position in the palace. He had no political ambition, no need to make money – he was most likely a wealthy individual back in Persia. He simply did not have to be there. For twelve years as governor, unlike his predecessor, he took nothing from the city treasury. Previous governors laid heavy burdens on the people – Nehemiah wasn’t there to rule or govern, but to rebuild, to serve God. He writes that because he feared God, he didn’t even allow his assistants to live off the people of the city. He devoted himself to Jerusalem, refusing to settle on land, or build for himself and his family a home there. He even paid for the daily operation of the government himself, feeding 150 people very day – out of his pocket.
This man was a pastor before we knew what pastors were. He took bread from his table and gave it to others. He refused ownership of the physical, instead focusing on the spiritual. He fed others even if he went a little hungry. He worked, and had others on his staff work as well. He rested not in the luxury of the palace, of lived off the backs of the people.
Finally, he depended upon only God, and asked only for His blessings, not what others could give him.