“9 So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them – one per cent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.’12 ‘We will give it back,’ they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!’At this the whole assembly said, ‘Amen,’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” NIV

When Nehemiah issued the instructions in verse 11, backed up with the influence of his own example (10), he put the culprits in ‘check’. In all conscience what could they say other than, ‘’We will give it back’’ (12a). They were caught in the headlights with nowhere to run or hide. But when he built in such a potent accountability structure (12b), they were ‘checkmated.’ Sometimes wise leadership has to show tough love, taking full account of human nature. I think of the words in John 2 about Jesus that: ‘’He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.’’

It seems to me that Nehemiah, knowing human nature – knowing the subtle and powerful pull of greed over the heart – did all he could to help the people not only repent, but then stay on the right path.

PRAYER: Lord, I acknowledge that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.Help me not to be controlled by money, nor by the lust for it, but to steward what I have for your purposes.