February 10, 2023
Set An Example For Others
Nehemiah - “For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah . . .neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way. I also devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my servants to spend time working on the wall. I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! . . . I refused to claim the governor’s food allowance because the people already carried a heavy burden.” (Nehemiah 5:14-18)
Nehemiah always did his best to lead by example. When he asked the people to rebuild the wall, he was working beside them. When he asked the people to pray, he had already been praying. When he asked the people to stay up all night and work night and day so the wall would be finished, he stayed up night and day with them. When he asked them to help the poor, he'd already been helping the poor himself.
As the appointed governor, Nehemiah should have been able to collect a certain amount of food from the people, but he never did so. He realized the people were hard up. Nehemiah could have exploited the people like the past governors but he didn't. Instead, he always set the example by feeding the poor out of his own personal wealth. Nehemiah is setting the example by modeling unselfishness.
Nehemiah understood that the source of all conflict is selfishness. Nehemiah said, “Listen, I haven't exploited the people, taken advantage of their misfortune.” He does this to contrast his approach from the wealthy rulers' approach. They were exploiting the people. Nehemiah could say with a clear conscience, "Follow my example.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). People follow the examples of others they admire. Paul wasn't being arrogant. Instead, he was saying, "At least I'm making an attempt to follow Christ, so follow my example."
Nehemiah was a person of integrity. He was already feeding the poor. He had every right to say, "Why aren't you helping the poor instead of hurting them?" If you cannot challenge someone to follow your example, whatever you say to them is going to lose its impact. In challenging their children, parents shouldn’t say "Do as I say, not as I do.” That's ineffective. However, if parents say, "Do as I do," and then set the example by doing the right thing, even in the midst of conflict, children see their parents as people of integrity. As Christians, we need to understand that people are always watching us, seeing how we will respond when conflict arises. If this is the case, then we should practice for these times by always striving to set an example in every situation in which we find ourselves. Then, we will be practiced and ready to set an example when harsh conflict comes our way.
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
On a scale of one to ten with ten being the highest, how would you rate your example setting skills in the midst of conflict? How could you improve your score over the next week? Beneath your score, write out a few ways you could practice setting an example for others in small conflict situations so you can be ready to deal with larger conflict situations. If you’re leading your family through this exercise, guide them to rate their individual example setting skills as well. Then, spend time dialoguing as a family about the importance of setting an example, even in hard times.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, help me be prepared to set the example when conflict arises. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.