In Nehemiah 5, the people of Israel were fresh out of captivity and barely had two coins to rub together; and on top of that, there was a famine. Nehemiah, the governor of Israel at that time, heard their cries.
Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.”
I’d like to point out that these are debts entered into voluntarily. They chose to take out a loan, and they were paying it faithfully and still going under. But Nehemiah was not mad at the borrowers. He didn’t tell them “you should’ve thought of how you’d repay it before you borrowed it!” No, he instead spoke angrily to the lenders.
“Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”
So, basically, debt forgiveness. The lenders agree to do so. Now, I’m on the record warning that Israel is a church and also a nation; and we run into problems if we try to conflate the two in our modern context. But check this out (v13):
At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.
Notice that the “whole assembly” praised the Lord. Not just the borrowers, but the people who had already paid off their loans and even the lenders! The people of God rejoiced at the canceling of debt. Israel, as a church, rejoiced at what their governor had done on behalf of Israel, as a nation.
Some of my brothers and sisters need to do more praising and less grumbling. Yes, it’s unfair.
So is grace.
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Scripture quotations from Nehemiah 5, NIV.