“After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, ‘Each of you is exacting usury from his brother’” (Nehemiah 5:7).
Family members do not usually give their relatives a bill at the end of a meal in their home, but one couple certainly did. After an enjoyable Mother’s Day barbeque, the host and his wife charged his own brother $45. When the brother received the bill, he was enraged and wrote to a local newspaper columnist asking for advice. He explained that he planned to get even by not inviting his brother and sister-in-law to his child’s next birthday party.
Treating family members badly is not a new phenomenon. During the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the soon-to-be governor, Nehemiah, was quite upset when he heard that relatives were treating each other as strangers. The exiles who had returned from distant lands were being charged interest by the “nobles and rulers” who had remained in the area (Nehemiah 5:7, 8).
This led to all kinds of problems. Some people became so poor that they had to mortgage their lands, others borrowed money, and still others sold their children into slavery. Yet all of this activity was directly opposed to the laws that God had laid down a long time ago. They were not to charge interest to their relatives (Leviticus 25:36).
Nehemiah promptly rebuked those who had acted this way. Furthermore, he made them promise to return all the interest that they had charged their relatives. This was so important to Nehemiah that he shook his garment as a symbol of how God would shake out those who continued this type of behaviour.
As a result of his courageous confrontation the nobles and rulers kept their promise and returned the interest.
Father, help me to treat my relatives with love and kindness—just as You have treated me.
For Further Study: Nehemiah 5:1–13; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 3:8