(This is blog 5 in a series of blogs about leadership lessons from the life of Nehemiah.  If you missed the previous blogs, you can email me at jerry@schmoyer.net)

After Nehemiah returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, he led the Jews in rebuilding the wall of the city.  Not everyone cooperated though.  Wealthy people didn’t want to help.  Not only did Nehemiah tell the rich what to do, he set an example for them to follow. He was willing to do what he asked of them, and even more. Because he was appointed the governor of Israel by the king, he had the right to receive a salary for his services. However, he never took any pay for his work. He never used his position to help himself financially in any way. In fact, he fed 200 people a day at his table and paid for it from his own personal funds (Nehemiah 5:14-19).

A godly leader does not take advantage of his position and privilege. He does not use it for personal gain. He is a person of integrity and honesty. He has a reputation that no one can criticize (1 Timothy 3:2).  Nehemiah saw himself as a servant to the people. He was building God’s kingdom, not his own.

Nehemiah could have become proud because of the importance of his work and position. Everyone looked up to him. It would have been easy for him to start believing that he was someone special. The same is true of leaders today. Because of the special privileges and blessings God gives us, we can start thinking there is something special about us. That is pride.  Pride is one of Satan’s most effective weapons against pastors (Proverbs 16:18). It is especially dangerous for younger or new leaders (1 Timothy 3:6).  Be careful for yourself, for none of us are immune. When we think we are beyond being tempted by pride, we must be aware, because feeling that way is pride in action!

Nehemiah stayed humble. He was honest and open: a man of integrity who served the people and set an example for others by not taking a salary for his work.  However, that doesn’t mean pastors today should not take a salary. Nehemiah was very rich and could afford to support his family without taking a salary. Most of us cannot do that.  There are many other ways we can sacrifice for the Lord. Nehemiah’s example for us is humility, integrity and service. It’s good for people to share with those who have taught them (Galatians 6:6). The Bible says the pastor deserves his wages (1 Timothy 5:17-18). That’s the only way we can have time to minister.

If God were rating you, how would He score you on your integrity and honesty? What about your humility? What about your service? Is there any place where you can start improving?

Nehemiah faced opposition from the rich Jews within Jerusalem.  He also was opposed by foreigners who lived outside the city.  When their threats to attack the walls didn’t stop the rebuilding, these neighboring Gentiles tried to kill Nehemiah. They tried to lure him into a trap outside the walls where they could murder him (Nehemiah 6:1-4). Nehemiah was too wise to fall for this trap, but he still had to fear for his life. Fear is something all leaders must deal with. Timothy was fearful and wanted to leave Ephesus, but Paul wrote 1 Timothy to him telling him to stay.

When the trap to assassinate him didn’t work, the enemies tried using slander and false accusations to undermine Nehemiah’s authority. They accused him of selfish motives and untrue schemes (Nehemiah 6:5-9).  Nehemiah took it to God in prayer. Rumors can be very dangerous and damaging. The source is hidden, so the lies cannot be challenged and corrected. Little things become big things. What is said can be exaggerated to hurt the person. It is almost impossible to correct. In fact, the more we do to try to change gossip, the worse it gets.  All we can do is pray and leave it to God. Live a godly life so those who are open to seeing the truth about you can see it. Gossip was something Nehemiah had to live with. The Jews who were related to gentiles by marriage kept complaining and criticizing him because his standing up for the poor and weak caused them to stop taking money from them.

A third scheme to remove Nehemiah was to bribe a priest to lure Nehemiah into a part of the temple where only priests were allowed to go.  He told Nehemiah to come so he would be safe and protected (Nehemiah 6:10-15), but if Nehemiah had done this, God might have struck Him dead for such a blatant disobedience (2 Samuel 6:7). That is what they wanted to have happen.

Nehemiah, though, kept his eyes on his purpose for being there.  He didn’t let the fear from threats to his life cause him to get discouraged or lose his faith. He focused on what God wanted him to do and didn’t let anything else interfere.

Are you aware of the traps Satan and others set to ensnare you?  Do you know, and do, what is necessary to have victory over them?  When does criticism and gossip hurt you the most? What can you do to get through such times?


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