After Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon, it was mostly the wealthy and important people who were carried away into exile. Many of the poor and unimportant people were left behind to make whatever life they could from the ruins of their nation. When the exiles returned, they faced the difficult task of trying to rebuild the country with those who had remained behind.
But, even in this challenging time, divisions occurred between rich and poor. The poorest had been forced to sell their children into slavery just to ensure that their sons and daughters would have food and shelter. But often it was their wealthy Jewish neighbors who were charging exorbitant interest on loans that caused their bankruptcy in the first place. Even though the prophets had cited such injustice as one of the causes of the exile, the people’s hearts remained unchanged.
But Nehemiah was not prepared to ignore this situation, and so he called a meeting and confronted those who were still oppressing their neighbors. In that time of struggle, the people needed to work together, and be generous and gracious to each other if they were to survive. There was no place for greed and detachment.
In many ways our world is in a similar place. We have the means to eradicate extreme poverty yet children still die of hunger, and many poor people still live in slavery to wealthy bosses, creditors, and landowners.
For those of us who are not directly involved in these unjust systems it may be tempting to feel there is nothing we can do. However, as we take little steps each day to share what we have with others, and to use our voice and our hands to aid them, so we help to heal their world. Today, think of one small act of justice you can perform, and then go do it.
The act of giving – of time, of our expertise, or of our resources – is always an act of justice. Even small contributions to organizations that help those who are poor and oppressed can make a big difference. In these tough economic times we need to give more rather than less to support the work of justice in our world. Today, make a contribution in some small way.
Whatever I have, O God, I share with those who have less in order to bring justice to the world.