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I deserve better. Don’t you frequently think that about your sacrificial service for the Lord? I mean here we are doing the hard work of trying to start a local church – that’s what’s at the heart of the Great Commission. (OK, maybe a little more evangelism would be helpful . . .) but I am putting a lot of energy and commitment into this ministry.

Look at how other leaders are demanding and receiving all types of perks. They make sure that people give them respect; pay them attractive salaries to minister; fix them up with a comfortable study with plenty of time off for travel and reflection and rest. My Monday mornings are not spent recuperating on the golf course. I’m back at the pressure grind of trying to eke out a living. Don’t I deserve a break?

When I was young … did I want to go into the ministry because I wanted to live sacrificially for the Lord?? NO! I liked the life I say in our senior pastor. Don’t have to sweat a lot; can spend a lot of time in your plush study; treated very well by everyone in the congregation and even in the community ..

Is it wrong for people to shower respect and personal favors and material compensation upon their spiritual leaders? No – that is not the lesson here.

– But demanding and expecting such treatment is wrong.

– Not being sensitive to your situation and what the Lord is trying to accomplish is wrong.

– Placing burdens on the people to whom you minister is wrong.

– Not setting an example of rolling up your sleeves and joining in the tedious part of the work is wrong.

– Thinking that you should be spoiled as a privileged prince or a king is wrong.

Let’s not lose sight of the example of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and that of the Apostle Paul (saw much of this in our study of 1 Thessalonians) – the preeminent apostle who wrote so much of the NT and started so many productive ministries. What were there expectations and how were they treated?

Is it worth it to sacrifice in the ministry?

We must remember: the rewards have not yet been handed out

Nehemiah gives us a glimpse once again of what it means to set the example for sacrificial ministry.


This last half of chap. 5 is the balancing contrast to the example of financial exploitation in the ministry that we studied last week.

(lot of Scripture references today – parallel passages that drive home the main points)

Ralph Davis: (Re verses 14-19) which are something of an extract out of Nehemiah’s diary. It interrupts the chronological flow of the matter at hand (cf. v. 14a), but is likely placed here to set forth a positive sample of Nehemiah’s walking in the fear of God (v. 15) over against the heartlessness of the profiteering Jews in verses 1-13.


If you are unwilling to make these commitments, do not aspire to spiritual leadership



A. Good Example: Mindset of Foregoing Legitimate Privileges

“Moreover, from the day that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I nor my kinsmen have eaten the governor’s food allowance.”

First term of office as governor (445 to 443 BC)

Christ: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” (Phil. 2:5-7)

“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to your. Truly, truly, I say to you a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)

Apostle Paul: “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? . . . But I have used none of these things . . . What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:3-18)

B. Bad Example: Mindset of Forced Rule and Feathering One’s Own Nest

1. Laying Burdens on the People

“But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people”

Christ: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28)

“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Matt. 23:2-4)

Apostle Paul: “Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit. Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I? I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?” (2 Cor. 12: 14-18)

2. Leveraging their Position for Material Prosperity

“and took from them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver;”

Christ: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matt. 8:20)

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:51)

Apostle Paul: “Are they servants of Christ? – I speak as if insane – I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor. 11: 23-27)

Peter: “I do not possess silver and gold” (Acts 3:6)

Illustration: When the citizens of High Wycombe, England, elect a new mayor, all the town councilors are weigh¬ed in public, following an ancient custom. Those whose weight is less than or at least not more than when they took office are warmly applauded – they have not grown fat at public expense.

3. Lording it Over the People

“even their servants domineered the people.”

Christ: Completely different leadership style — “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28)

Apostle Paul: “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith” (Phil. 2:17)

(Diotrephes in 3 John)

C. Fundamental Motivation: Mindset of Fear of the Lord

“But I did not do so because of the fear of God.”

Prov. 19:23 “The fear of the lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

People with a big ego and sense of their own importance have allowed their pride and ambition to suppress their fear of God; they come to believe that they are above the law of God; they deserve special exemptions; they live on a different plane and should not be held to the same accountability that applies to God’s people in general

Matt. 18:1-6 – Instruction on Humility – how would you like to die an awful death by drowning? Good Question: Who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

You better not cause one of God’s little ones to stumble or hurt them in any way because you are building an empire for yourself

We do not have to follow the crowd and fall into the same corrupt practices of the world; we need to dare to be a Daniel and stand out and be different

Christ: “I say to you, ‘My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows’.” (Luke 12:4-7)

Apostle Paul: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12)



A. Rolling up one’s own sleeves vs. Ivory Tower Delegation

“I also applied myself to the work on this wall;”

1. Shared Labor — “I applied myself”

Some spiritual leaders present themselves as the designated “Visionary” – but their great vision involves you doing all the work that they find distasteful or tedious

Must be willing to do the dirty work – not just rally the troops to work hard; Nobody around to make Nehemiah do this; he applied himself to the work at hand

Problem of too many chiefs and not enough Indians

Verb: yTiq.z:x/h, — “use one’s strength; put forth strength” –

word used throughout chap. 3 for “made repairs”

1:10 used for the strong hand of God;

2:18 (ASV) “And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”

Gen. 48:2 “When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed.”

2. Sweat Equity — “to the work”

Sam Ewing: Hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.

1 Tim. 3:1 “If any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do”

3. Staying on Task — “on this wall”

Stayed on task – the work on this wall; did not get distracted; did not introduce his own agenda; did not rely on his own wisdom to come up with some other plan; allowed the Lord to build a vision in his mind and than implemented that vision

Christ (the Carpenter): “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34) (cf. model of Wayne Wever – PEF)

“For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

Came to seek and to save the lost – passed on to His disciples the Great Commission – we know what the task at hand is

Apostle Paul (the Tentmaker): worked night and day

“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus , that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35)

B. Valuing the Vulnerable vs. Selfish Exploitation

“we did not buy any land,”

Look at how “public servants” enrich themselves while in office and set themselves up for further riches when they leave office

– All types of real estate scams involving high level politicians

– Example of Insider Trading – always at the expense of someone

– Example of people using political office to get themselves a high-paying job when they leave

Breneman: The land Nehemiah refers to is that which governors could accumulate from people’s failure to pay taxes or to repay debts.

MacArthur: Even though the time to purchase property from those forced to sell couldn’t have been better, Nehemiah maintained a consistent personal policy not to take advantage of another’s distress. He worked on the wall rather than spending his time building personal wealth.

Jer. 22:13-19 Key Passage [separate sermon]

Instead Christ modeled Compassion – Is. 42:1-4

Edward J. Young: Just as the bruised reed cannot withstand any force that might soon break it, so weak men, broken in power and strength because of oppression they are suffering, will collapse under violent force. The servant does not destroy such weak men. Rather, he takes pity upon their low estate. His actions are in strong contrast to those of earthly conquerors.

C. Committing Family Resources vs. Spoiling the Royal Household

“and all my servants were gathered there for the work.”

No one missing in action; followed Nehemiah’s example

Benefiting the nation rather than working on his personal estate; like an Amish barn raising; many hands make light work; the lazy always make excuses



A. (:17-18a) Unselfish Sharing

1. Generous Hospitality — Feeding the Appropriate Guests

a. Providing for the Key Officials of the Kingdom

“Moreover, there were at my table one hundred and fifty Jews and officials,”

You thought you didn’t have a big enough dining room table to entertain people!

b. Providing for the Visiting Dignitaries from other Nations

“besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us.”

True public servant – ran the government at his own expense

Apostle Paul: “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.” (2 Thess. 3:8-9)

“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal. 6:10)

2. Generous Provisions – not talking about institutional type food here

a. Allotment of Beef

“Now that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep,”

b. Allotment of Poultry

“also birds were prepared for me;”

c. Allotment of Wine

“and once in ten days all sorts of wine were furnished in abundance.”

Yamauchi: meat sufficient to provide one meal for 600 to 800 persons

Christ: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11) patterned after the manna in the wilderness

Apostle Paul: “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means; and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

2 Cor. 9:6-9 “not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”

B. (:18b) Unselfish Sensitivity

“Yet for all this I did not demand the governor’s food allowance, because the servitude was heavy on this people.”

Absorbing the pressure and responsibility instead of passing it along to a people that were already overburdened

Don’t be a Burden on the people, but a Blessing – (review of Point #1) – Nehemiah had no problem sacrificing in order to be a blessing to the people; he knew how much pressure they were already under



  • Example of Egyptians by contrast – Jews were afflicted and oppressed and cried out; response was to beat them and lay even harder burdens on them (“Hand Me Another Brick” – play on title of Swindoll’s commentary) – Exod 1 :13-14; 5:7-21

  • Example of Split of Kingdom – Rehoboam – 2 Chron. 10:1-11 – followed the foolish advice of the novice counselors who advocated an oppressive type of domineering rule; instead of following the wise counsel of the older elders who lobbied for kindness and compassion



“Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.”

Same plea repeated at the end of the book 13:14, 22, 31

A. Appeal to God’s Faithfulness

“Remember me,”

– Many promises about future rewards; God will not forget His loyal servants

B. Appeal to God’s Sovereignty

“O my God,”

C. Appeal to God’s Goodness

“for good,”

– comes down on the side of goodness; loves to give good gifts to His children

D. Appeal to God’s Justice

“according to all that I have done for this people.”

Harvest Law still applies

In contrast to instant gratification and recognition and reward; Remember God’s Harvest Law – as you sow, so shall you also reap; the compensation will ultimately be commensurate with the faithfulness; therefore be careful how you build; integrity of ministry is important

Max Lucado: (lesson that someone related to him) “God has shown me that IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, and IT’S NOT ABOUT NOW.”

You want to look for reward from the right place; if you are a man-pleaser or looking for reward right now you will not endure through the ministry challenges and remain faithful

When you are motivated by the fear of the Lord and the desire to please Him . . .

When you act on the basis of love and compassion for God’s people – sacrificing your own material resources to make sure you don’t further burden down others . . .

You should have the expectation of ultimate reward from the righteous judge

Nehemiah’s efforts brought tangible good results to God’s people

Swindoll: This could appear to be a bold, self-promoting prayer at first glance, asking to be rewarded for all the good he’s doing for the people of Jerusalem. But it’s much more. This is a prayer that invites the Lord to hold him accountable for his actions and to treat him accordingly. (Psalms 139:23-24) Furthermore, he commits himself to such conduct as would be worthy of reward.

Leadership is no bed of roses –

J. Oswald Sanders: A cross stands in the way of spiritual leadership, a cross upon which the leader must consent to be impaled.


Another birthday – How do I want to be remembered?

How did Nehemiah want to be remembered?

How did Paul want to be remembered?

As one who exemplified each of the 4 commitments of spiritual leaders we have just studied:

A. Servant Leadership

Wise master builder who followed God’s plan for church structure and ministry philosophy – that includes a plurality of godly servant elders in each local church – submitted to the Chief Shepherd (1 Cor. 3:10); not a shoddy builder who cuts corners and follows the path of expediency – whatever seems to produce the best results at the moment

B. Partnership Commitment

Aggressively using my spiritual gift for the furtherance of the kingdom; as well as promoting the ministry of my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord; in my case that means discernment and accuracy in expositing God’s Word; a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)

C. Sacrificing for the Needs of Others

Boasting in not being a Burden to God’s people, but rather a Blessing; Generous, unselfish, hospitable, gracious (1 Cor. 9:3-18; 2 Cor. 11:23-27)

D. Confidence in God’s Faithfulness

Finish the course laid out for me as a faithful steward of what has been entrusted to me and look for that future reward (2 Tim. 4:6-8)