Nehemiah 5 – Unity through Generosity


There’s a spirit of generosity about Nehemiah. He tells us what it cost him. An ox…this is a daily requirement to feed these 150 men and the entourage of diplomats that would stay in the governor’s palace perhaps…an ox and six choice sheep, and fowl of some kind, and every ten days all kind 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.”

He’s generous! This would have cost a significant amount of money, which he evidently paid out of his own purse. He tells us about previous governors who demanded forty shekels of silver as a daily ration. That it’s meant to be a figure that brings a level of surprise. It’s a figure that tells us something of the exorbitant demand that was being levied upon the people just to administer this provision. And Nehemiah pays for it himself. There’s a spirit of generosity about him.

That’s a biblical principle. Paul in many places in the New Testament (in I Timothy 6:18) pleads for Christians to be generous and to be ready to share. Luke describes Cornelius in Acts 10 as “giving alms generously.” Again, in that passage in II Corinthians 9, Paul thanks the Corinthians because of their generosity. “Each one must give as he has means, as he has made up his mind; not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Here’s an example of a man who has certain rights, but he denies himself those rights and out of his own pocket, for the sake of the kingdom of God, for the sake of the Old Testament church, he gives – and he gives generously. There’s a measure of enthusiasm here about what he has done, so much so that he’s actually recorded it for us. He wants us to see this.

And for us: we have experienced the love of God. We have experienced the propitiary work of Christ on our behalf. Of all the people in the world, we ought to be generous!

But what were Nehemiah’s motives? He mentions two of them. Why the spirit of self-sacrifice? Why the spirit of generosity?

He tells us in the first place, in verse 15, because of the fear of God. Because of the fear of God…. It tells us something about Nehemiah, doesn’t it? About the way he viewed his life, about the way he lived his life: he’s a man who lived with God before him every day. He lived in the fear of God. He lived reverencing God. He lived with God before his eyes, with God before his heart, with God in his
affections. He took the word of God seriously. He loved it, he treasured it. He hid it within his heart.

But there’s a second motivation. Not only did he fear God, but do you notice (at the end of verse 18) this is sheer compassion for the people. Because the service was too heavy on this people, he didn’t demand this tax as other governors had done, because the people couldn’t bear it; because they were groaning because they were in distress, because they were hurting. His heart responded to the hurt of the people of God. He loved the people. He was their governor. He had political authority over them, but he loved them and he had a shepherd-like heart. He has compassion.

Ligon Duncan

Heart Preparation
Read Nehemiah 4:14-5:19. Consider the generosity of God to you. How should this inspire your generosity to others?

Posted on: January 30, 2013 - 7:57PM

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