Then I said, "What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! – Nehemiah 5v9-10
Several years ago we had a young man over for a mission trip/survey visit. He was a roofer my profession and was considering Ireland as a field of Christian service. He was from a state that had a hurricane hit while he was here. When his company phoned him to tell him what kinds of rates they were getting to repair roofs he fly back immediately to take advantage of the exorbitant prices that they could charge.
This has always bothered me. If I could remember his name and way to contact him I would probably have to confront him. He claimed to have a Christian business, but was willing to take advantage of a terrible situation to make more money.
When I read Nehemiah I realised that this is nothing new. Jerusalem was under something of a siege. Supplies were cut off from the outside. The result was a famine and a great lack of resources. Some of the people were loaning money or food and charging outrageous interest. The poorer people were forced to sell themselves and their families into slavery.
Nehemiah was outraged. ‘What you are doing is not good. We brought you back from slavery in Babylon and now you are making slaves out of other people here! Stop it!’
Fortunately the people obeyed and sorted it out. They paid back the extra interest. They released the slaves. They made things right.
Instead of taking advantage of desperate situations we ought to be seeing these times as a chance to help and support others. We can not only help out each other, but we can reach out and help others as well. We might ask ourselves, ‘What would Christ do in a crisis situation?’