“Stewardship 101”

Nehemiah 5

Can a Christian follow Jesus and be a multimillionaire? How does a Christian with extreme wealth justify having a lot of money, knowing there are starving children even in America. What does the Bible say about having a lot of money? When asked this question, many quote the passage where Jesus answered the rich young man’s question of how to enter heaven, with his need to go and sell all that he had and follow Jesus. Many churches interpret that text to mean that being rich is not God’s plan. Did Jesus actually say, if you’re rich, you have to get rid of your wealth in order to follow Him? Well, He did say just that to the young man in the story. But the reason for the question wasn’t because he was rich, it was because his riches were more important to him than Jesus. 

For those who have a lot of money, it has the propensity to take precedence over other things very easily. Maybe that is why the Bible has so many verses discussing the subject. There are 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, and more than 2,000 verses on money. In fact, 15 % of what Jesus taught was on the topic of money and possessions – more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined. (https://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2009/02/why-the-bible-talks-so-much-about-money.html)

In  chapter 5 of Nehemiah we are shown the good way to steward one’s wealth, be generous to others in order to advance God’s kingdom. In contrast to the bad way to use one’s wealth and disregard others in order to gain more for oneself. 

We need to learn how to incorporate the Bible’s teaching on the subject of money into our lives. The key is to find a way to please God with what He has given us, whether a little or a lot. This means knowing how to steward what we have for the glory of Christ, the good of others, and the advancement of the gospel, Stewardship 101.

What have we learned about Nehemiah so far? In chapters 1-2 we learned that Nehemiah was a man of prayer and he spent time in Torah study. He was ready to take action and be used by God as an answer to his own prayers. In chapters 3-4 Nehemiah showed Christlike valor while leading the people of God to rebuild the wall, at great risk to himself. Today’s Scripture, in chapter 5 Nehemiah demonstrates how to be a good steward with the money we have regardless of the amount. 

In the first five verses we discover the Jewish people are not following the Torah when it comes to money. This reeks havoc with the community rebuilding the wall. 

Check out verse 1, 

“A great protest was mounted by the people, including the wives, against their fellow Jews. Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”

The Jewish families were complaining about their fellow Jews. To completely understand their outcry, you need to know what the Torah of Moses required of the Jews. 

Deuteronomy 23:19-20 says,

“Do not charge your brother interest on money, food, or anything that can earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you must not charge your brother interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you do in the land you are entering to possess.”

Those who had been concentrating on the work on the wall didn’t have time to work in their fields. Thus, they did not have enough food to feed their families. So they had to find a way to eat. In order to have food, some families mortgaged their fields and paid others to work there. Others had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on their fields and vineyards, because they hadn’t received any revenue because they hadn’t worked in them. They were having to resort to selling their children into debt-slavery. All of this because the Jewish people with wealth were primarily concerned with their wealth and not thinking about the effect their financial dealings had on the poor. The poor who devoted themselves to working on the wall couldn’t feed themselves, care for their children or keep working on the wall. 

Today we are not covenanted to the Torah, however, this circumstance does bring up some viable questions. 

  • Do you think beyond yourself when you think about how you deal with your money and how you go about accumulating money? 
  • Do you ever ask whether what you do with your money harms other Christians or keeps them from being able to devote themselves to the work of the church?”

These outcries have several concerns:

  • the inability of the poor Jews to work the land and provide for themselves,
  • the way the work on the wall will suffer if they leave it to work the land,
  • the mounting financial burden of mortgaging the fields and vineyards and borrowing to pay the king’s tax on mortgaged land,
  • the devastation of selling one’s children into slavery,
  • and the compromised position of vulnerable children, especially daughters, enslaved to others

Notice Nehemiah’s response. His amygdala initially takes over, verse 6, 

“I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints.”

Then his cortex takes the lead, verse 7, 

 “After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother. Then I called a big meeting to deal with them. I told them, “We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?”

They said nothing. What could they say?

Jews were charging other Jews interest, which was explicitly forbidden in Exodus 22:12-27, Leviticus 25:35-54, and Deuteronomy 23:19-20. Look at what Nehemiah says in verses 9-10:

“What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?”

Nehemiah started with his heart, then he focused his appeal on Yahweh and the Torah. He asked them to look at what they were doing from a Godly perspective. Ouch!

  • Do you fear God in the way you deal with your money? 
  • Do you deal with your money in a way that reflects your concern for God’s reputation among the nations? 
  • Do you regulate your finances according to God’s instructions in the Bible?”

We are not under the Mosaic covenant, and we are not Jews in covenant with our kinsmen before Yahweh. This means that we are not constrained by the ordinances in the Torah of Moses on dealing with money. There are no New Testament verses to look up and follow like those in covenant with God in the Old Testament.

Where, then, do we turn? 

We may not have covenantal rules to follow but there are principles from the Old Testament and a set of guidelines from the New Testament for dealing with what God has given us. 

I am adapting these suggestions from James Hamilton’s,  “Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah.” 

1) “The Lord brings poverty and gives wealth” (1 Sam 2:7).

Conclusions to draw from this:

  1. Some people try to make themselves rich and


  1. Some people try to make themselves poor and


2) “The earth and everything in it . . . belong to the

Lord”(Ps 24:1).

Conclusions to draw from this:

  1. Everything belongs to God, and we are stewards.
  2. Everything that we have has been entrusted to us

by the One who will evaluate how we have stewarded it.

3)  The rich young ruler was instructed to sell everything and give to the poor (Luke 18:18-30), but Jesus did not give that instruction to Zaccheaus (19:1-10).”

Conclusions to draw from this:

  1. God is generous and instructs His people to be


  1. Being generous is a frame of mind and not limited

by your resources.  The more money you have,

the more generous you are able to be.

4) “Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. . . . it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest” (Prov 6:6,8).

Conclusions to draw from this:

  1. Wise people work hard and save in times of plenty

to prepare for times of want.

  1. You should not feel guilty if you have learned from

the ant to open a savings account.

5) Paul calls the Corinthians to the spiritual discipline of giving as the Lord prospers them (1 Cor 16:1), as each decides in his heart, under no compulsion, for God loves cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:7).

Conclusions to draw from this:

  1. There is no minimum or maximum percentage

that should be given.

  1. People should give what they have cheerfully

decided in their own hearts to give.

We don’t have the Torah telling us exactly what to do, however, we do have guiding principles. God is sovereign over what each of us has and we are responsible to image His generosity and wisdom, 

  • to do unto others as we would have them to unto us, 
  • to use our money to advance God’s kingdom through the church.

When we take a good look at what we are doing with our finances and we discover, 

  • we are not doing to others as we would have them do to us, 
  • where we are abusing others to benefit ourselves, 
  • where our financial practices are bringing shame on the name of Christ, 

We must repent, and repentance requires action. 

Nehemiah called the Jews oppressing their brothers to repent in Nehemiah 5:11,

“But this gouging them with interest has to stop. Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”

Nehemiah had a moral basis for his indignation, a moral authority for his appeal and a moral direction for his instruction, based on the covenant the Jewish people had with God. Today, Christians participate in the new covenant, we want to honor God in our financial practices, we want to do unto others as they would have done to themselves, and we want to use what we have to promote the knowledge of Christ and advance His church. This should be enough to get us to repent. It did so for Nehemiah, look at verse 12

“They said, “We’ll give it all back. We won’t make any more demands on them. We’ll do everything you say.”

Nehemiah knows that a promise to repent is one thing, but following through on the promise to repent is another. After he calls the priests to have the people swear in verse 12, in verse 13 he calls down a curse on those who do not follow through on their promises.

“Then I called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word. Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, “So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn’t keep this promise—turned inside out and emptied.

Everyone gave a wholehearted “Yes, we’ll do it!” and praised God. And the people did what they promised.”

As we continue in verses 14-15, we learn from what Nehemiah tells us about himself, how he trusted God.

“From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah—from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years—neither I nor my brothers used the governor’s food allowance. Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. 

Nehemiah chooses to forgo privileges other governors had done because he cares more about the people of God, who will bear the burden of such practices than he cares for his own excess. He also believes there was something higher and better and more enjoyable than indulging himself in this world, verse 16,  

“But out of fear of God I did none of that. I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn’t have time to line our own pockets.”

Nehemiah wasn’t there to gain prestige or take on privileges that would cost the people he had come to assist. Nehemiah wanted God’s name exalted and God’s weak and vulnerable people protected. He trusted God, and he loved God’s people.

Or maybe he was satisfied with what God had already provided for him. Check out verses 17-18,

“I fed 150 Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn’t use the food allowance provided for the governor—the people had it hard enough as it was.”

This was enormous wealth! Nehemiah trusted God and loved God’s people, so he did not take advantage of the privileges of his office, but there was no indication at all here that he felt the slightest bit guilty about having the means to sacrifice an ox and six sheep every day and have “an abundance of all kinds of wine” every 10 days. He was feeding 150 Jews a day. However, there were still poor people in the land. Nehemiah did not give any indication that he felt badly about being extravagantly wealthy while others were poor. Yet, he refused to take more in a way that would make these people poorer. 

Nehemiah had worked his way to a position of prosperity. No shame in that. Along the way, I am quite certain Nehemiah did not step on or over people to get there. 

We should praise God, period. Whether we are wealthy or poor. All that we have should be considered a blessing. We should love God and serve Him. 

We should worship God not money. We should steward our wealth as a blessing from Him. We should be doing unto others in our financial dealings as we would have them do unto us. If we are using our wealth to advance the gospel through the church, we should not feel guilty about the blessings of God that become available to us through the wealth with which He has blessed us.

Nehemiah was also a man of prayer, and he closes this account of financial dealings with the prayer we find in verse 19,


“Remember in my favor, O my God,

Everything I’ve done for these people.” 

Why would Nehemiah ask God to remember him for the good he had done? Here we see the source of Nehemiah’s selflessness. 

Nehemiah wanted to serve God and God’s people because he believed that living by faith in what he could not see would be more rewarding than living for what he could see in this life. What a concept!

What is the type of stewardship presented in this chapter of Nehemiah and supported by Scripture? 

If God is your God, not mammon, 

if you are wisely seeking to steward what God has sovereignly given you, 

acting out the golden rule, 

seeking to advance the gospel, 

experiencing the blessings of God, 

then don’t let anyone take you captive to feelings of guilt for enjoying God’s blessings. 

There are all kinds of disparities in this world. The gospel is the great leveler, not our checking accounts. 

Tall people who trust in Christ should not feel guilty for being tall. People who trust in Christ and have great marriages should not feel guilty for having a believing, faithful spouse. Those who trust in Christ and whom God has made rich should not feel guilty because God did not make someone else rich also. God is God. We will give account to Him for the way that we stewarded what He gave us. Refusing to enjoy the way that He has blessed our bank accounts is along the lines of refusing to enjoy the blessing of a sunset or a spouse, a flower or a forest. Each of us is blessed in a variety of ways, finances are just one of them. May each of us count our blessings, and use all of them to God’s glory. 

Let’s pray.