“In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence…I was very much afraid. I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it…And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.’ And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:1-8)
A godly steward remembers that all we have comes either directly or indirectly from God and that God gives us these people, time, positions, influence, and resources for his glory. We are to be wise personal stewards for ourselves and our families as needed. For singles or couples without children the resources we need to support our personal lives are minimal compared to large nuclear or extended families. The larger need is for our church and community, including our nation and the world. Nehemiah’s desire was to serve God and his Jewish brethren, in a distant land with resources he himself would have to collect.
In all of my studies of Nehemiah I have never come across commentary about his family, if he had one; I have always assumed that he was single. Why is Nehemiah’s marital status a consideration? Well, when you and I begin to examine our stewardship, and specifically how we spend our time and money, where do we start? We start with ourselves and our families, don’t we, as if this is the most important aspect of our lives. In one way, it is, because without sustaining our own lives we are unable to help others; parents need to care for children and grown children need to care for aging parents. However, our needs and those of our families is where our stewardship concerns should begin, not end.
Well, you say, Nehemiah was in great shape, with a good salary from his high position with the King, living comfortably in Susa. Yet, I say again, isn’t this the case for most of us? The average annual income of a working adult in the world is somewhere between $10,000 and $18,000. (1) If you or your family earns more than this you may be in Nehemiah’s shoes, fully capable to reaching out to others with your time, money, or resources. Do you live in relative peace and security, without political or police threats from those who oppose Christians? Then you, like Nehemiah are in a position to take a counter-cultural stand for Christ. Nehemiah allowed the need of the returning Jews in Jerusalem to affect him to his core. He wept, prayed, and then allowed the king to see his sad face, something unacceptable for a cup-bearer, especially with a king who had shut down the work on the Jerusalem wall and temple once already. (2)
Not only did Nehemiah confess his distress to the king but he asked the king for supplies, with trepidation and prayer. In the Book of Nehemiah the author emphasizes Nehemiah’s proactive work preceded by prayer. Matthew Henry wrote: “Our prayers must be seconded with serious endeavors, else we mock God.” (3)
Depending on your marital status and family’s needs, your stewardship could be appropriately about your family, your church, your community, or the global body of Christ. Where do the needs of other believers fit into your stewardship paradigm? Where should they? Is your stewardship only prayer, or only action? What needs to change if you are to truly depend upon the Lord, as Nehemiah did, for resources that he will provide in unexpected ways to serve the Body?
(2) “To be sad in King Artaxerxes’ presence was dangerous enough. In addition to that, Nehemiah wanted to go to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls, and it was this king who earlier had been petitioned and had stopped work on the rebuilding of the walls as a result of that petition. Nehemiah’s plan meant asking him to reverse his own policy.” Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, “Nehemiah 2:1-8—The Second Dynamic: The Leader and His Superiors,” Baker Books, 1998
(3) Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the While Bible, Nehemiah 2:1-8.