Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive we must get grain. Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood of our countrymen and though our sons and daughters are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.
Nehemiah heard the outcry of the people who were oppressed; their children were being sold into slavery and their land was being taken from them in order to pay their debts. Nehemiah was outraged. He accused the nobles and officials of exacting usury from their own countrymen. He told them that what they were doing was not right and took action to rectify the social injustice.
When you hear the outcry of social injustice today, do you respond as Nehemiah did? Christ’s compassion for the poor, the needy, the hurt, and the broken is evident throughout Scripture: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed. (Luke 4:18) As ambassadors for Christ, we are also called to have compassion on the needy, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. We should be outraged when we see the condition of those in need and see others taking advantage of the poor.
As I read about the complaints of the Jews in Nehemiah’s day, I am convicted that there are people in my community, state, and country crying out for help. In truth, I spend most of my time with people like myself who have plenty of food, clothes, and so much more than just the necessities of life. I hear the outcry for justice, the outcry for help, and I am overwhelmed with the needs. If each one of us does one thing a day to help relieve the needs of others, we will make a difference. Sometimes it seems as though what we do is only a ripple in a sea of need, but if each one of us throws a pebble in the water, we will make a tidal wave of assistance to those crying out for help.
I take my one pebble and cast it into the lake of need. Give me eyes to see the broken, the needy, the poor, and the outcast. Help me to be like Nehemiah and not turn my back on those in need but be outraged enough to take action.
In Jesus’ name, Amen