Israelite Divisions

Handwritten page from the book of Nehemiah chapter 4 verse 9 through chapter 5 verse 6.
Nehemiah 4:9-5:6

Synopsis     Nehemiah 4:9-5:6     7/16/2020 

Nehemiah led the rebuilding project in Jerusalem. As he did, the local, non-Jewish magistrates attempted to undermine his efforts.

When their efforts didn’t work, they threatened violence against Nehemiah and the Jews. However, the Israelites working in Jerusalem armed themselves for a fight. As a result, their enemies departed.  

Later, Nehemiah came to realize there were certain disparities amongst the Jews. In particular, some of the Israelites had positioned themselves as money lenders within the community. These lenders were charging interest on loans, which was not legal for Jews.  

As a result, through pawnbroking and other aggressive lending techniques, many of the Israelites lost their land to the lenders. And many were even forced to sell their children into slavery.  All of this angered Nehemiah.  

Israelite Division 

The Law of Moses discouraged aggressive lending practices in general. And it specifically forbade lending money for a profit. God gave Moses the law concerning lending because of the destructive effect lending-for-profit created in the community.  

Nehemiah recognized that this issue was dividing the Israelites. And, as a result, it threatened the well-being of the community. Ironically, money-lending injured the community in a way that no outside enemy ever could. 

Interpersonal Divisions 

My tendency is to look at the world for what it can do for me. I came into the world thinking this way. So, even many years later, I naturally tend to look at other people from the perspective of what they can do for me. In other words, I treat them like objects. 

Unchecked, this attitude is corrosive to community.  

In synthetic communities, the check on selfishly objectifying other people is the law. Of course, it’s really an ever expanding system of laws. It is ever expanding because it never treats the root of the problem. It never addresses my need to grow beyond selfish ambition. Instead, systems of laws merely delimit the range of my just ambition.  

Contrast this with Authentic Community. In the Authentic Community, the goal is to recognize the other as a person. And the hope is to be able to experience the intrinsic, God-given value of other people. All of this, without regard for my “what’s in it for me?” attitude.  

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 15:13 

July 22, 2020

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