Daily Devotional Nehemiah 5:1–13
When asked about the most important law in the Old Testament, Jesus famously responded that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matt. 22:37). No one listening to Him would have disagreed, most certainly not the Pharisees who were questioning Him. But then Jesus went on, saying that “the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (v. 39). In the midst of the people’s courageous rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls—an act of loving God, to be sure—the people of Israel had failed to keep the command that “is like it.” Rather than loving their neighbors, the powerful people in Jerusalem were exploiting the poor.
What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?
When we see this sort of injustice, it is easy for us to turn the other way and say, “It’s not my business.” We may assume: “They have made bad decisions to become so poor. You reap what you sow!” But that was not Nehemiah’s response. Rather than cast blame on the impoverished, Nehemiah became “very angry” (v. 6) and confronted the “nobles and officials” for their sin and called them to stop charging interest on their loans (v. 7). Not content with the leaders’ word that they would make restitution, Nehemiah made them vow to keep their word. And he even uttered a curse against them should they renege on their promise.
Perhaps most important, he recognized that this was a theological issue. Nehemiah stated that poor leadership is a failure to fear God which will incite “the reproach of our Gentile enemies” (v. 9). Jesus would point out centuries later—we cannot separate loving God from loving our neighbor. If we fail in the latter, it shows we are failing in the former.
>> What does it look like to truly love God and love your neighbor? Pray and ask God to show you if you have failed to show this type of love to “your neighbor.” Then ask God to help you make it right with that person or a group of people.
Pray with Us
While it can be difficult to love You without Your physical presence, it is often even harder to love those who are physically with us. We owe it to You to extend grace to others made in Your image. Help us love our neighbors.