« Back

Nehemiah's Humble Generosity - Nehemiah 5:14-19

Posted on March 3, 2019

Nehemiah’s Humble Generosity

Nehemiah 5:14 – 19

Scripture Reading

Nehemiah 5:14 – 19

14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

Introduction:

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

“A cross stands in the way of spiritual leadership, a cross upon which the leader must consent to be impaled.”- J. Oswald Sanders Spiritual Leadership

“It has been said that leaders are people who accept more of the blame and less of the credit, but they are also people who quietly sacrifice so that others might have more.”

  • Nehemiah and his associates were great examples of leaders
    • Did not tax the people but paid their own bills
    • Paid for food for all the assembled people at the table
    • They did not take advantage of the people they served in any way!!
    • They avoided the temptations of power, bribery and lust for things for themselves
    • They kept God and others the priority and focused on serving God alone

Purpose: Every Christ follower must learn to give of himself to others and in serving others he or she finds true joy

Transition: Nehemiah was generous in his care and concern for his workers and the people of Israel. He valued and showed them their worth.

The right to claim his privilege

 Nehemiah 5:14

14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor.

  • Nehemiah’s credentials
    • At some point, while building the wall, Nehemiah was appointed governor which was the highest position of leadership at the time
    • Some commentators believe this section of scripture was written at another time and inserted here because it fit chronologically with the rest of the story found in 5:1 – 13
    • Nehemiah according to this passage served his first term as governor for twelve years
    • Nehemiah’s compassion

Nehemiah 5:15a

15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so

  • Nehemiah had every right because the precedent had been set many years and used many times in the past by other leaders to charge the people a tax to pay for the governor and his dignitaries’ food while they served the people
    • The amount usually extracted from the people was equivalent to one pound of silver or forty shekels.

Illustration: A small storeowner was being pressured to sell his store to the owners of a large department store who had bought every building on the block, except his. Frustrated by the man’s refusal to sell, they eventually opened their huge store on either side of the small one, with a big banner running from one side to the other, proclaiming in huge letters "GRAND OPENING."

Feeling equally frustrated, the small storeowner did finally outsmart the large department store. Below the grand opening sign, across the front of his small store, the man put up a small banner over his door: "MAIN ENTRANCE."

  • Nehemiah refused to do that and paid for the food as we will see for 150 people a day out of his and the other officials’ pockets.
  • Imagine that!! Where do you see leaders doing that today??
  • Nehemiah had compassion on these people who for more than a generation had been living in their homeland unprotected.
  • Nehemiah was just one of them who put his pants on everyday the same way they did and did not hold his power over their heads for special privileges.

Application: Servant leaders identify with their followers.

Transition: Servant leaders gain so much respect when they work alongside the people they lead. Followers become leaders and leaders are followers.

The reason to be generous

 Nehemiah 5:15b

Because of the fear of God.

  • Fearof God
    • His first stated reason for his generosity and compassion was his reverence for God, His love for God and His motivation to do all He could to please God.
    • What is your motivation for giving of your time or of your talents or of your treasures? I hope it is love

I Corinthians 13:1 -4

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant

  • Favorably serve with his people

Nehemiah 16b

16 I also persevered in the work on this wall

  • Notice those first two words of verse 16, I also
  • Nehemiah, as governor was just one of the members of the team.

Illustration: In his book about famous sports team captains titled The Captain Class, Sam Walker examines the hidden forces that create the world's greatest sports teams. Here's one of his surprising findings about one of the characteristics that makes for a great team captain: they took care of tough, unglamorous tasks. In other words, they were rarely stars. They did the grunt work.

Walker gives the following example:

In 1962, when Brazil won its second consecutive World Cup, its team's unquestioned star was Pelé, arguably the greatest soccer player of all time. The prevailing view is that Pelé's brilliance, expressed by the 77 goals he scored, was the team's driving force. But Pelé was never made captain—nor did he lobby for the job. The team's primary leader was Hilderaldo Bellini, a tough and humble central defender who, during a nine-year stint with Brazil, never scored a goal.

Bellini was a functionary, not a star. While Pelé attended to the pressures of celebrity, Bellini took care of the daily, hourly grunt work of unifying the team. He cleaned up their mistakes with his fearless defense, often leaving the field bruised and bloodied, and calmly urged them forward when their confidence sagged. While Pele’ would be interviewed after a victory, Bellini quietly went to the locker room without any notoriety.

Walker concludes, "The captains on my list were rarely exceptional talents. … The leader's job wasn't to dazzle on the field but to labor in the shadows of the stars, to carry water for the team, to lead from the back.

  • Persevered / Applied (NASB) – to be or grow firm or strong; to become mighty.to encourage
  • Nehemiah did not ask anything of the people he wasn’t willing to do. He always used his privileges to build up the people and not build his personal empire.

Application: Servant leaders care for the needs of their people.

Transition: If giving of himself physically in working side by side with the people, he dug deep into his personal finances to care for the needs of his people.

The rendering of generosity

 Nehemiah 5:16b

And we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.

  • I acquiredno land for myself
    • He did not take anything for himself. He wanted what was best for the welfare of the people
    • He would return to his job as the King’s cupbearer at the end of twelve years. He was not there to gain land for himself or to sell it although that was all available to him.

Illustration: America is a nation that gives without expecting anything in return

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey once asked Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland as to whether America’s attack, then short-term occupation of Iraq and deposing Sadam Hussein was engaging in empire building.

“Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.” – Colin Powell

  • I ate with the workers at no expense for them

Nehemiah 5:17 – 18

17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people.

  • The 150 people were made up of some of the workers, the government officials, and those who came from other places to help Nehemiah
  • Nehemiah lists the things they served for meals
    • One ox
    • Six sheep
    • Some poultry
    • Every ten days lots of wine.
  • He purchased it out of his pocket not to “burden” the people because the work was so much
  • I asked for remembrance of my good deeds

Nehemiah 5:19

19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

  • Remember – Asking God not to fail to act on his behalf because he cared for the people.
  • Nehemiah never thought of himself or his needs
  • He was always thinking of the people and what God wanted to do in and through their lives.
  • We will see this sentiment recorded seven times in this book. Nehemiah is asking God to remember.
  • Nehemiah exemplifies John 15:13

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends

  • The best leaders are those who gain knowledge and experience who have character and integrity and then give it away by mentoring or pouring their lives into others.

 Illustration: Here is the story of one leader who gave his very life for a friend and it impacted so many. The story of Angus McGillvray

Application: Servant leaders give of themselves.

Transition: Servant leaders identify with their followers, take care of the needs and concerns of the people and give of themselves unselfishly. May we develop these characteristics in our lives.

Key Thought: Serving others with the right motive will always cost you something in exchange for joy

Important Leadership Principles in Chapter 5 of Nehemiah – Warren Wiersbe

  1. 1.    Expect problems to arise among your people
  2. 2.    Confront the problems courageously
  3. 3.    Be sure that your own integrity is intact
  4. 4.    See in every problem an opportunity for the Lord to work

Note: The work had been stopped for a great assembly to deal with the issues of the family. Now it was time to return to the work of rebuilding the walls and also facing the opposition from the outside. But as a leader, one must be sure your own people have their needs and concerns cared for before you can take on the enemies from outside. If you are not all in as a team, in unity, you will easily be defeated by the enemy. Nehemiah is shoring up the team and its focus on God to prepare for what they are about to face.

Let’s Pray

Questions to Ponder this Week

  1. Are you keeping balanced in your perspective of who you are in relation to others?
  2. Do you have a caring heart for those who are following you?
  3. Do you regularly give of yourself using your time or talent or treasure or a combination of all three?