Nehemiah 5 the Opposite of Love

 

So far the building of the wall has only received opposition from those on the outside but now we are going to see that the people turn on each other because of selfishness.

Selfish: having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people

The world has the wrong view of Love many times because their definition of love includes loving themselves.  The world talks about self image, self esteem and even self love and even their sacrifice for others has a stipulation that it must benefit them as well.

If we are seeking what it means to love then we have to look to God who is Love (1 John 4:8) God in His word has given us the definition of love and as you will see the world is living the opposite of  what true love really is. A passage that is read at many weddings was actually written for the church but it gives us the definition of what God considers true love to really look like.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends

There will be a group of people who think only of themselves and their selfish desires will almost ruin the rebuilding of the wall because the destructive nature of selfishness can ruin a society  a home and even  a church.

Read Nehemiah 5:1-5

All the workers started to complain because they were being taken advantage of financially. It was such a big problem that the verse says the women were crying out. In a culture where the women were to be mostly silent, for them to be crying out means that this has brought much stress and heartache to many families. They had to sell or mortgage their land in order to have money to eat which means they could not grow crops which led to their kids being sold as slaves to pay off their debts. They had no choice because food was running low and this was the only way they could keep their family from starving to death. Even though the people were rebuilding the wall they still had to pay taxes to the King and now their own brothers were making a profit off of them.

Nehemiah became angry because many of them were just set free from being slaves and now some of them would have to be rebought from their enemies. Many of those who were farmers had left their farms to come and rebuild the wall and so the crops may not have been as productive plus there was a famine which made it even more difficult to have enough food.  There was plenty of grain but those who owned it, or who were in charge of it, decided that they could make a lot of money off of those who needed to buy it to live. Their own brothers were taking advantage of their misfortune and making themselves rich at their expense and resentment was beginning to happen. Selfishness was causing the Kingdom walls to not be rebuilt because the people were focusing on the wrongs done to them rather than the job at hand.

Read Nehemiah 5:6-8

1)   Selfishness has to be addressed

Selfishness is not something that just goes away over time. Like a car that is out of alignment the longer you let it go the worse it will make it on the tires. Eventually a car that does not get realigned will cost you more in the long run because you will be fixing more than just the alignment but replacing the tires as well.

When you only  focus  on yourself it will take and effort on your part to make sure that you are thinking about others. This will not come naturally and you need to get help from the Holy Spirit as well as other Christians who can help you get focused in the right areas of life.

In Nehemiah 3:5these very nobles were the ones who would not lift a finger to help in the rebuilding of the wall. Their selfish behavior continued because it was not addressed from the start and it became worse as time went on.  2 Timothy 3:2 says that in the end times people will be lovers of self and as believers in Christ we have to guard ourselves to make sure we are not thinking only of ourselves. Nothing destroys the unity of believers more than those who think only of themselves and now Nehemiah is seeing the work being stopped because of a few selfish people.

The men Nehemiah had to confront  held powerful positions and if Nehemiah did not address it the right way they could have caused more problems for him.  Nehemiah stopped the work and called a meeting to address the problem and confront those who were treating others unfairly. Nehemiah based his confrontation not on what he thought but based on Gods word. Nehemiah addressed them based on the word of God and whenever we address others we need to do the same.

Deuteronomy 23:19 You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.

The work alone was very difficult then you add in the threat of the enemies, being separated from their families and businesses, this strain would be more than they could take. Price gauging in illegal but especially when there is a crisis. Gods people should never exploit people for gain when they are in a desperate situation.

You could loan people money and even for charge interest but not when it was in a time of desperation. Your first thought was to how you can help your brother and you may even have to give them food without expecting any payment back. Many times we can see selfishness in others but not in ourselves and if someone does not lovingly confront our behavior we will never see it.

2)   Selfishness will be judged God

“Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God”

Nehemiah appeals to the people to think about what will happen when they stand before God. We will all give an account before God and as Christians it will be for the work we did in His name. As Christians all of our sins are forgiven but we will still give an account for what we did for the sake of the Kingdom.

Philippians 2:3-8  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men.

The key to what is being said in this verse is “emptying yourself out” The God of the universe who is worthy of praise put us first and died for us so we could be back in a right relationship with Him. He did not have to die for us but He chose to do so because He loved us.  If we call ourselves Christ followers yet we are not putting others first then there is a problem.

For the Kingdom of God to advance it always relies on people putting others first.

3)   Selfishness destroys our witness to the world

“To prevent the taunts of the nations

Every time the church people turn on each other the world laughs. The work of the Kingdom always gets interrupted when people act selfishly.

James 3:14-16  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice

James says that selfishness is demonic  and with it every vile practice. This is not something we should take lightly in ourselves, in our homes and in our churches.  Four times in Nehemiah’s address to them he tells them they are hurting their brothers. We are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5) and when we act selfishly we hurt our witness to the world. The early church thrived when they loved each other fully (Acts 2) and the world will take notice of the church when we love each other like we should.

“A Holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.” D.L. Moody

The world is watching how we treat each other and how we act.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus said this after He washed the disciples feet and demonstrated that others come first. Jesus, The King of the World, stooped down and took the lowliest job of a servant and washed the disciples stinky, dirty feet. If Jesus set that example than we also need to put others before ourselves.

Read Nehemiah 5:14-19

4)   Unselfishness has to be displayed

Nehemiah earned the right to talk because of the life he lived. The people that Nehemiah addressed and rebuked were people of position and power but Nehemiah was also a person of position and power. Nehemiah who was now a governor did not accept the full portion of food that he was allotted because he knew as a leader he needed to make sacrifices as well. Nehemiah sacrificed his own resources for the sake of others by taking less and giving out more than other officials.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

This is why Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and to lay aside the old self. We are constantly to be putting others needs in front of our own.

Dr. Jerry Bridges said, “a seed has to die before it can produce fruit”

If we want to see God use us to reach our families, our communities and our world for Him then we have to die to ourselves first. Romans 12:1 says we are to be  living sacrifices. This means we are to die daily to our wants and to put the wants of God and others before our own.

Your job is to display unselfish behavior even if others are not. God will be the ultimate judge which is what Nehemiah says at the end  when he says “Remember my good oh God” God will remember all that you did and what you sacrificed for Him and He will reward you for that one day. (Matthew 5)

5)   Unselfishness keeps the unity of believers

We will restore these and require nothing from them… and all the assembly said Amen and praised the Lord

When people are not focused on themselves and how they can always gain from others, the work of the kingdom continues in unity of spirit. The kingdom advances when we make sure that everything is not about our wants and our needs by putting others first. In his book “Autopsy of a deceased church, Thom Rainer says that being self centered is a sure way to destroy a church.

I love that when the nobles were rebuked they repented and the people rejoiced. I wish that was always the case but some people will continue to live selfishly and destroy others for their own gain. There was no payback from the people for the wrong they had done just a simple lets move on from here. The people were glad that they were all working together and when someone repents like the nobles did we also need to not focus on what they did but on how we are going to go forward from this time on.

Colossians 3:12-14  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony

Closing

How has selfish behavior on your part ruined relationships that you used to have?

How do you display selfish behavior to your family, your friends and even your church?

Have you been putting others first in your life including your spouse and or family?

Start with loving others like Christ loved us and you will see God use you in amazing ways.

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