Did your history teacher tell you that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it? So when we look in the past, are actions and results eerily similar to today?
This is true in economics as well as history; economies and markets cycle, repeating themselves. Don’t get the wrong idea; no one can exactly predict the future by studying the past. However, you may make an educated guess.
So let’s look into the very distant past, The Great Recession, Jerusalem circa 445 BC. Nehemiah is Governor of Jerusalem under Persian rule. A terrible famine and depression is taking place. People have borrowed money against their fields and vineyards. Others have sold themselves and even their children into slavery. These Hebrews once freed from Babylon gazing brightly into the future, now worried about their next meal.
As we take an emotionless look at history, what do we see? The culprits were, in part, a nasty famine and yes a steep Persian tax. We also see greed. Instead of banding together in mutual support we read in Nehemiah 5 of loan sharking. We can read between the lines that some took unfair advantage of the situation to charge exorbitant interest and wrongfully hold their debtors assets.
Let’s be aware of a few important points in our own Great Recession. Though the asset classes and interest rates are different, we all know of examples of greed. Also, God’s word is not against loans, interest, investments, and return. However, God’s word is always against greed and taking unfair advantage of the poor and needy.
Nehemiah declared “what you are doing is not good, should you not walk in the fear of our God?” He took drastic steps, instructing the lenders to stop interest and give back the security of their loans. The borrower still owed the money but the contract was re-written to give them a break.
Nehemiah made it clear that these were God’s instructions; “thus may God shake out every man from his house…” This was not only the best social route; it was also the best business route. These bad debts were salvaged and the money was repaid.
On top of this Nehemiah, the Governor, charged no taxes, and took no salary. He knew that leadership was best by example and that he answered to God. As we all do.
Wow, there is so much to glean from just a few verses in Nehemiah 5. We should be careful not to force these business and political actions into current events. However, God’s instructions were clear for them and for us today. There is a strong warning against greed, encouragement against despair, action for all of us to take, and an example to lead from the front. Paul wrote this well when he wrote to Timothy “instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, and ready to share.”
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Posted on Wed, May 21, 2014
by Sound Financial Strategies Group