When others are in the wrong, how do you handle yourself? If you are in a position of authority, how do you guide change? When others are oppressed, what is your response? As a parent, I can be rash. I loathe the sight of seeing one of my kids belittle one of their siblings. When my oldest uses his smarts to take advantage of his younger siblings, I lose my mind. Rarely can the word patient be said of me in this situation.
As a leader in my church, ugh, guilty. I’m rarely patient. I want to act quickly and get frustrated when I can’t act quickly. It’s the type of frustrated where I start talking to myself. Been there? You’re in the shower and your spouse says “honey, who are you talking to?” Yup, I’ve had so many conversations in the shower or car to absolutely no one. You’ve been there.
Recently I took my kids to a church we’ve never been to. Here I heard Pastor Andy give an insightful sermon on Nehemiah chapter 5. He brought it to life for me. I needed to read Nehemiah’s passion and how he handled himself within that passion.
He gets wind of Jews that have taken advantage of other Jews. They used property and loans to extract large sums of money and even put some in slavery (as a way of paying back debts). Upon hearing this, Nehemiah says;
6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them… Nehemiah 5:6-7
Ok, three quick things I see about Nehemiah here that I think need to apply to all of us in our dealings with given environments;
- A love for justice is just that, LOVE: We can not say we care about the people we serve if we don’t care about what is right and just. We can not say we care about people within our community if we don’t care about what is right and just. We can not say we are a fair and righteous leader if we don’t do anything about what is unfair and unjust.
- Be positioned to hear: Especially in that day in age where rulers would rule from above, Nehemiah was among the people he served and led. He heard their cries because he could literally with his ears hear their cries. He was positioned to hear, and because he cared they, in turn, were heard. We all hear, but not all are heard.
- Swift counsel leads to swift actions: Nehemiah literally starts to talk with himself. He starts to rationalize what is going on within his spirit. He took counsel with whom? HIMSELF!!!!! Nehemiah took a moment to sort through his own thinking and then HE MOVED. Too often we get caught in either extreme: too much time spent thinking and no action, or quick actions that lack solid thinking.
But wait, there’s more! If I want to impact my family, my church, the people in my job here is how I can take my patience NEXT level: generosity!
14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor.15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people. Nehemiah 5:14-19
Ok, three more lessons to take our patience next level in the midst of injustice;
- Generosity is impactful: Nehemiah was very generous. He gave of his own money. He led by example. He was a man of extreme sacrifice. As a leader myself, I hope I am sacrificial. However, as I read Nehemiah’s story, he is NEXT LEVEL sacrificially generous. Here is what hits me, this example was FOLLOWED. His servants, his officials, fellow Jews, a table of 150, I mean come on!!! His generosity impacted so many. Why?
- Generosity is an overflow of the heart: He saw the burden was too much for the people. He loved the people he served. He didn’t take from them although it was his right, he gave to them. Generous could have been, I’ll not take my full due. But Nehemiah said, Nah, I’ll take nothing and I’ll do you the solid of actually giving to you instead. Why? He saw the service was too heavy on the people. He cared for them.
- Generosity is remembered: Nehemiah worked on the wall himself. He didn’t take his due from the people. He provided for the people. Remember the context? His fellow Jews were taken from other Jews. They were doing the exact opposite. So his example naturally stood out. As a leader, in my selfishness, I’d want the world to see and I’d expect them to follow my example. He called them together, yes. He spoke hard to them (earlier in the chapter). But in the end he had the right perspective, “God, I’ll be generous and I’m praying if it is remembered by anyone, that it would be remembered by you. Oh, God please remember what we’ve done for these people.”
Maybe a focus on extreme generosity will help us become more patient in the midst of injustice. So next time you hear an outcry from the people around you, what will you do? How will you proceed? How will you rep our King? How will this speak to your One? How you handle these types of situations is likely what you will be remembered most for.
Keep Praying for One!
Written by Pastor Jason Coache,
Lead Pastor at Wellspring Church