It is so bad that these unfortunate ones must mortgage the fields, vineyards and houses they came home to at high interest rates just to get food; and then they have to pay all the king’s taxes as well. They end up selling their children into slavery just to survive.
The outcry comes because it is Jews extracting interest from their own brothers’ properties, and even taking their children into slavery! Can you think of a worse case of disunity among blood relatives?
When Nehemiah becomes aware of this situation, he is furious. He calls a great assembly of the people to charge these usurious brethren, saying:
“We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?
Nehemiah goes on to clarify that lending is not bad; the people understand and want to work hard to restore their fortunes. But he demands that they immediately cease “extracting” high interest rates and that they restore all their properties rather than evict their owners.
Nehemiah’s word “extraction” made me cringe. Extraction of interest from a family member hurts the needy person as badly as a tooth extraction without Novocain.
Imagine for a moment that you meet a very poor Christian brother or sister who has a bad toothache and cannot afford a dentist. Would you excuse yourself, go find a pair of pliers, yank out the infected tooth, and then demand payment with interest, while at the same time melting down the silver filling in it for maximizing profit?
Metaphorically, this is what the Jews are doing to each other in Nehemiah 5!
My church has a relationship with a very poor church in the inner city of Denver. Once a year, their pastor comes and preaches at our church and thanks us for the support we provide. But I have never been there, and that makes me about as disunified as I can be, allowing my pastor to do all the caring. That is just like extracting a tooth from that church. Real people need real help there; real people really want to earn their way economically. But my ignoring them from a distance and not looking for ways to help maybe just one family with basic needs is disunity at its worst.
In Nehemiah’s words, shouldn’t we be acting toward our brothers and sisters in Christ as Jesus himself did? Is it any wonder that the world does not see us loving the needy in our own family? Yes, there are wonderful organizations like Samaritan’s Purse. But this is personal.
Perfect unity involves, at least in part, being willing to lend a hand, consistently, without extracting interest. Perhaps before we can “go into all the world” to preach the gospel of Jesus, perfect unity begins with finding one Christian family in need right here at home and becoming their biggest fans!
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ne 5:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ne 5:9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.