Jump Start # 2610
Nehemiah 5:11 “Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new win and the oil that you are exacting from them.”
Nehemiah is a book that is plagued with problems. Broken walls. Enemies trying to stop them. Complaining people. Officials trying to take advantage of others. But many have turned to this powerful book to study leadership. Nehemiah was a man of prayer and of action. Those two together leads to amazing results. Far away from Jerusalem, Nehemiah comes up with a plan. He rallies the people and in an incredible fifty-two days, they rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.
As one reads Nehemiah, he sees within the heart of a leader. Nehemiah cared for the people of God. Nehemiah had incredible faith in God. Nehemiah is not one to sit on the sidelines of life and wonder why someone isn’t doing something.
Our verse today touches upon that wonderful heart of Nehemiah. The people were hurting financially. They had mortgaged homes and land to get food and pay their taxes. The nobles, who were fellow Jews and citizens, were taking advantage of the people. Nehemiah was angry. He rebuked these leaders. Then, in our verse today, he tells them to give back the homes and the lands to the people. Let the people live. Let the people make a living. They had been in Babylonian captivity. Now they were coming into Jewish captivity by these ruthless nobles. The burden was too great. They needed the land to make a living. Give it back to them.
But, what is incredible about all of this is how our verse begins. Take a look at that first word. “Please.” Nehemiah is asking. He certainly had the right to force them. He had the position to make this happen. Instead of using his position and his authority, he used his heart. “Please.”
Now, we might think this is nothing more than manners and being kind, which it is. But, it’s more. It’s getting the people to want to change. Forcing change may bring results, but it doesn’t change the insides of a person. When they want to change, then goodness and rightness flows freely. “Please, give back to them.”
What a contrast to what I’ve been seeing on the news lately. Civil protests and marches in major cities are led by those who are demanding change. If things do not change, then bad things will happen. Threats. Harsh language. Digging in. Standing ground. You will change, or else! And, when a person is pushed, whether physically, verbally, emotionally or social pressure, he tends to resist. He wants to fight back. You have to change, because I say so. I demand that you change. And, in the background I hear Nehemiah saying, Please, give back their lands and homes. Please.
Maybe folks are tired of not seeing any positive changes. Maybe the wheels of progress have stopped moving. Maybe some are happy with the way things are and they don’t want to change. Tried. Frustrated. Out of patience. The spirit on the street these days is simple, “We demand that you change.” We will force you to change.
A little “Please,” would certainly go a long way. Consider some areas:
- In the family: tired moms and dads can sound more like a drill sergeant than a loving parent at times. Sure you want your child to clean their room, take the dinner plate to the sink and feed the dog. You can shout out those commands. You can demand because of your position. You can raise your voice. Or, you can sprinkle some “please” with your words. That changes the tone of things. In our marriage, a little more please would soften rough edges and long days. It would open the door for better communication and better feelings. Such a simple word, “Please.”
- In the church: shepherds would do well to add please to their vocabulary when directing the sheep. Rather than using your position and authority, use your heart. Paul understood this with the Thessalonians. He appealed to them gently, like a nursing mother. Many of us understand that. When we fell, we’d run to our moms. She would kiss us, hug us and tell us it would be ok. Our dads would simply say, “be tough and walk it off.” There was a tenderness with mom.
The sheep ought to express the same heart back towards the shepherds. The way some talk about the elders is shameful. You’d get the idea that if we were on a boat, there would be a mutiny and the elders would be pitched overboard. How about some “Please,” when talking with the elders. How about some respect for who they are and what they do. How about some kindness and gentleness.
- In our prayers to God: We spend so much of the day talking to each other, that we sometimes forget who we are talking to in prayer. We want this. We need that. We expect blessings. We demand forgiveness. A heap of “please” reminds us that God doesn’t owe us anything. It also reminds us that God is good. Saying “please” keeps us in our place and it humbles us, as it ought to. Job had to rethink the way he had been talking to God. Often, we need to do the same. God is not one of us. God doesn’t see things the way you do. We answer to Him, and, not the other way around. “Please, dear Lord,” ought to be in all of our prayers.
Please. Nehemiah understood that. I expect the temperature of things would calm down a bit if more folks used that simple word, Please.