True Religion (Nehemiah 5)

Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.” Nehemiah 5:1

As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” This was the strategy that the enemy employed to get at Nehemiah. Threats of war could not stop the work on the wall. In fact, it brought the people of God together! However, it wasn’t long before  internal strife reared its ugly head.

This is systematic for a lot of congregations in our Christian religious experience. Although there are times where outside influences can knock a church down, for the most part it’s the internal strife, disunity, and struggles that cause the most damage. When the enemy can get members to fight against members, church leaders to rebel against pastoral authority or a multitude of similar situations, the church cannot fulfill the call of God. Where disunity is present in a church, the enemy is glorified. As Mark 3:25 states, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

There were three results of this outcry that we can interpretively apply in a spiritual context:

First, there was hunger in the land (Nehemiah 5:2). When a church is not united, working together, our spiritual hunger cannot be satiated. People begin to starve, and as a result, start to eat each other (spiritual cannibalism is alive and well). When worldliness, gossip, rebellion, and sinfulness are present in the church it is evidence that they are not eating of the spiritual bread of God’s word! God’s word will never instruct you to be resentful, disrespectful, deceitful, or disingenuous with your brother in the faith.

Second, there was great need (Nehemiah 5:3-4). Jesus promises a life in abundance (John 10:10) and that our cup would be overflowing (Psalms 23:5). In other words, the promise is that we will have more peace, love, and spiritual blessing than we can contain! However, there was a literal need in the land of Jerusalem. People were scrounging just to survive. Consider any company, family, or group of people. When united with a common purpose, they work together to supply any need (like in Acts 4:34). As Nehemiah demonstrates, unfortunately, the opposite of godliness leads to shortage.

Third, there was corruption (Nehemiah 5:5). Probably the most disgraceful thing that happened during this time was that the Jews were taking advantage of their own people’s misfortunes. The rich lorded over the poor, even taking slaves amongst their own. When our churches lose compassion for our own or our own agendas become more important than the spiritual health of the church, it stops becoming an assembly of saints and it starts emulating our democratic political process. When we live in a way that we think is right, ignoring God’s counsel, we are destined to eternal damnation (e.g. Proverbs 14:12, 16:25)

James 1:27 instructs us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

In other words, true religion is one that puts others before our own selves (e.g. Philippians 2:3-4). True religion is directed by God’s love (1 Corinthians 13). True religion is not self-serving, but is focused on Christ (Romans 15:5-7). In fact, true religion is not really a “religion” but a relationship with Christ.

Many think that belief is the same as being a Christian and that just because we believe in Jesus, it means that we are saved. However, James 2:19 clearly states, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Christianity is about FOLLOWING Christ! Obeying his word. Doing what He says! Christianity is establishing a relationship with the Savior, in which he becomes our teacher and we become his students. Wherever he leads, I follow and whatever he says I should do, I obey…

And God has not called his church to be in disunity. We are called to work together for His honor and His glory!