A mix of devotional/general-post, on Nehemiah 5 and what it says about social justice, how God cares about it, and why we should too.
NOTE: This was posted first on my Tumblr, LOGO TEXT MINISTRIES (url: http://walkingcringemoment.tumblr.com)
In Nehemiah 5:1-13, Nehemiah – as an authority figure in Jerusalem – steps in and stops the oppression of the poor. What had been happening was that poor Jews were borrowing money out of need and poverty, and also mortgaging their property, also out of poverty. In this situation, the lenders were exacting interest out of them, which was forbidden.
Nehemiah finds out about this, and he is furious. Exact quote of Nehemiah 5:6: “I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.” Long story short, Nehemiah confronts the people oppressing the poor, calls them out in such a strong way that they can’t think of anything to say in response, and then mandates that they return to them that day what had been taken from them, and exacted from them. Those in attendance at the meeting comply, and are then bound with an oath before God.
Then, in Nehemiah 5:14-19, he explains that during his entire time as governor of Judah (twelve years), he refused to tax the food of the people, because previous governors had used that perk as a way of squeezing the people, in their suffering, dry.
To get to my main point: Nehemiah was doing this out of righteous fear of God and a righteous mind in God. He called out the oppressors for not ‘walking in the fear of our God’. He then, following his convictions (for twelve years), served honourably as a governor, with the people’s welfare in mind.
Now, to drive it home: Nehemiah cared about social justice, he had a heart for the poor and the oppressed, because he was a man who followed God and took God seriously. Basically, he had a heart for the poor and the oppressed because God had and has a heart for the poor and the oppressed. Shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we? To answer a major question of this post: we should care about social justice because God cares about social justice. We’re servants, so we need to strive to be like our Master, in all ways, in every way.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s so easy to just get ‘overloaded’ on the suffering in the world and to close your eyes and hearts to said suffering to just make it through the day sane. But we don’t get that luxury. We, as members of God’s Church, of the Body of Christ, don’t get to ignore the suffering of the world. We have to embrace it and let it wound us, and in it wounding us, move us to righteous anger and action. We should get angry when we learn about the poor getting shafted when budgets for programs for the neediest are cut, when we hear about mental hospitals closing and those who depend on them getting thrown onto the street with nowhere to go and no help given. We should get angry when a city (like mine, Vancouver, for instance) has a huge homelessness problem and nothing seems to ever get done about it.
We should get angry. Because God gets angry when He sees that stuff happening. And then, when we get angry, it moves us to action. Through prayer, through loving our hurting and suffering neighbours, through getting involved – whether it be through church programs, or social activism on the streets of your region – to do our part, to be this generation’s Nehemiah in our own way in our own contexts and circumstances.
Let’s pray, let’s be men and women after God’s own heart, and let’s keep our hearts open and continually wounded by the suffering in the world so that we can stay connected to it, get an anger in our hearts that is righteous and after God’s own heart, and then – with the Spirit of our God driving us – seek after justice for all of the people on this earth.