“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, “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? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them–the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.” “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised. “ – Nehemiah 5:6-13
The Gingerbread Man Reloaded
When my son was a toddler, I purchased a book titled “Bedtime Stories for 365 days”. He and I would read a different story every night, and then I would tuck him into bed and pray the “Sandman” would whisk him away to Toddler Land – The place where the world is a big sandbox, Green Apple Jolly Ranchers, and Bugs Bunny Cartoons; where carrots were forbidden, and the word “no” was abolished. Then it happened; one night we read the story of the “Gingerbread Man”! He was so tickled that the Gingerbread Man escaped the perils of being devoured by the little Ol Lady who created him. He REALLY got excited when we would chant:
“Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.”
So, the next night, there was another story to read. He listened for a few moments, and then his little eyes filled up with tears. I asked him, “What’s wrong Son”? His response (in toddler dialect): “I wanna to hear more Gingabreadman” At that very moment I heard in my head “Danger Will Robinson Danger”. How am I going to read this story, EVERY NIGHT, for the next 300 plus nights? I asked him again: “Son, don’t you want to hear the other stories”? His response (in more toddler dialect): “No Daddy cause this story my story”. So, for the next 300 plus nights, I had to become “creative” with crafting the “Gingabreadman” into one of the other stories.
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Henry IV, Part 2 Act 3, scene 1, 26–31
When you read Nehemiah 5:6, he has heard the complaints of the congregation. Nehemiah’s “To Do List” is past full on the “Project Gauge”. He is having to deal with daily business operations, as well as reconstruction of the wall. However, Nehemiah does two things: 1) He listens and 2) He responds (notice how important it is to listen first, then respond). As a leader, whether it is secular employment, or in ministry, grumbles, grievances, and gripes are very seldom going to appear during times of your convenience. As a matter of fact, they will show up as you are planning the Annual Friends and Family Day; show up as you are planning the annual budget for the church; show up before and after a wedding or homegoing service; show up after the worship benediction. Complaints won’t wait until you are ready to deal with them. Complaints won’t always be packaged nicely. Protests won’t always come from just one person, but maybe a group of people. Grievances won’t always make full sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to the one(s) making the claim. Nehemiah didn’t tell them to come back between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Nehemiah didn’t tell them he had bigger fish to fry. Nehemiah didn’t tell them “just deal with it”. Nehemiah LISTENED.
Secondly, Nehemiah responds. The congregation was barely out of Babylonian captivity, and here their own were taxing and putting burdens on them that were totally dishonest. Nehemiah was livid! Sometimes, it’s a very good thing for your employees and congregation to see that sin, evil and injustice angers you. However, in your anger, sin not.
Nehemiah understood, that if he listened and followed through with their complaint, he would end up receiving more assistance, and less non-productivity or “feet dragging” from those who lodged the complaint. Those who you lead, at different times in their lives, need you to show that you care, versus just saying you do.
. . . as fast as you can!
The Church is by far not a perfect place. You have imperfect people, serving a Perfect God. As long as Satan is around, so will there be evil. We are living in perilous times, yet as leaders we have to deal with what lies before us.
Nehemiah didn’t believe in sticking his head in the sand, and the problem will go away. He dealt with the issues his people had. Nehemiah didn’t brush the people off like a gnat at a picnic; he showed compassion and went to bat for them. The “Gingabreadman” did not believe in dragging his feet. He ran as fast as he could.
Sexual harassment in the congregation? Deal with it as fast as you can.
Child molestation in the congregation? Deal with it as fast as you can.
Sexual deviation in the congregation? Deal with it as fast as you can.
Brother addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the wife comes to you for help? Deal with it as fast as you can.
Sister has a miscarriage or still birth, and the husband comes to you with briny tears rolling down his cheeks? Deal with it as fast as you can.
Young brother commits murder or suicide and the parents comes to you with a heavy heart? Deal with it as fast as you can.
Young sister comes to you, parents on both sides of her, two months pregnant and need guidance? Deal with it as fast as you can.
“There are three qualities a leader must exemplify to build trust: competence, connection, and character.” – John Maxwell