We all want to understand how to make our life count for something. Ultimately, we know that a truly unwasted life is found in discovering God’s calling and purpose for us and living to fulfill it. Big callings often invite big challenges—both internal and external—but we serve a great God who fights for us. We can be ready for the challenges, but we don’t have to be afraid. Nehemiah had a big calling—to restore the walls of Jerusalem—and he faced big challenges as he worked to accomplish his task. In leading the Jewish people in this rebuilding project, Nehemiah wanted to go about the task in the right way.
Read Nehemiah 5.1–6.
The new challenge facing the Jews was not the physical difficulty of rebuilding the wall. They were doing a good thing in working to rebuild, but even in the midst of this good thing, they had allowed injustice to creep into their day-to-day relationships with one another. They were treating each other unfairly with financial burdens that resulted in insurmountable debt and enslavement of their own children. They were going about the right thing in the wrong way.
The real issue facing the Jews was their own relational brokenness. The poverty they were facing—and the true poverty we face today—is that of broken relationships. Those with the greatest physical needs around the world define poverty as lacking respect, honor, value and acceptance, or bearing shame, guilt and embarrassment. The deficiencies are relational, both with others and with God.
When we are in right relationship with God, we have no shame or guilt before Him. When we are in right relationship with others, we aren’t seeking to do harm, exploit or leave anyone in a place of physical need. The Jews were guilty of all of the deficiencies of broken relationships. As we pursue God’s calling inn our lives, we must work against these things, ensuring that we pursue our calling justly.
Question: Does the way we run our businesses or organizations reflect a concern for the poor? Do our methods respect the dignity of the people around us? Do we treat others with fairness and compassion, or are we constantly trying to gain an advantage over people and profit from their situation?
God’s hope in rescuing us was that we would fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. At Engedi, one of our core values is to care for the poor and vulnerable as we extend compassion. A person who champions the unwasted life leaves a thumbprint of freedom, healing, hope and restoration in the world.
Practically speaking, there are five things we need to do to leave a thumbprint of restoration in our world.
1. Slow down enough to hear the outcry of those around us
Nehemiah stopped and noticed the injustice around him: no food, bad loans, high taxes and child slavery. If we have truly experienced the redeeming work of Christ in our lives, then we cannot turn a blind eye to the pain and brokenness of others.
2. Allow ourselves to feel and be moved by the pain of others
We can see that this situation touched Nehemiah deeply (verse 6). He was very angry about it, but his anger wasn’t selfish or sinful; it was controlled and constructive.
Read Exodus 22.25.
In this Exodus passage we find a financial precedent to follow. When the Jews failed to follow God’s instruction, abuse and injustice followed, and Nehemiah could feel the pain they carried.
3. Use our God-given abilities, resources and position to fight injustice.
Things rarely work themselves out with time. The truth is that the longer we wait, the more complicated things become. It’s okay for any company, city, family, or church to have problems, but it’s not okay to ignore those problems. Problems are a fact of life. How big they become is determined by our willingness to address them…or not!
Correcting any problem begins by facing it head-on. Notice how Nehemiah consulted before he confronted (verse 7). We should likewise pray first, and seek a plan of action from God. Nehemiah also made it clear that the price of not solving the problem would be very high (verse 9). He knew that when people ignore God’s commands, it invites His judgment. God was not going to bless the rebuilding project as long as they showed blatant disregard for His Word. Nehemiah understood that the HOW was just as important as the WHAT.
Question: Have you seen internal problems sabotage the good work of others? What happened? How could those problems have been resolved?
4. Be willing to restrict our privileges
Restricting our own privileges always involves sacrifice and servanthood. Nehemiah was entitled to a food allowance from the Jewish people, but he chose to forego his legal rights and sacrifice by covering his own expenses. People who leave a print of restoration have learned to say “no” to themselves, especially when they possess the right and ability to say “yes”. This is what Jesus did for us.
5. Live in the fear of the Lord
Nehemiah left a mark of restoration in history because he lived with a reverence and respect for God that influenced HOW he did what he did. How we do what God calls us to do should matter to us because it sure matters to him.
Question: Which of these five practices is most challenging for you to walk out and why? How have your life experiences contributed to this difficulty? Who is someone who has walked out that particular practice well, and how did they do it?
How do we want to be remembered? There is a God in heaven who sees not just what we do, but how we go about doing it (how we treat others). This is what truly matters in the end. Psalm 41 tells us about the promises of God for those who walk justly in all that they do.
“Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health” (Ps. 41.1–3).