February 5, 2023
Understanding The Cause Of Conflict
Nehemiah - “About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. They were saying, ‘We have such large families. We need more food to survive.’ Others said, ‘We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.’ And others said, ‘We have had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others.’ When I heard their complaints, I was very angry.” (Nehemiah 5:1-2)
Question - What could be worse than being attacked by your enemy? Answer - Intentional sabotage from within. In this chapter, Satan tries to divide Nehemiah and the people of God in Jerusalem. Does the devil still use division today? Absolutely. Internal problems destroy more churches, organizations, and families than external problems. Satan would rather cause division amongst Christians than anything else. Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25) Have you ever seen a football team defeat itself? A bunch of people with massive egos who, rather than fight the opposing team, fight against each other. Division can happen wherever you have two or more people. We tend to want our own way. However, if we don't deal with conflict it will stop the work of the Lord in our lives.
There were many problems in Jerusalem. First off, the people had been spending all of their time working on the wall so they didn't have any time to cultivate their gardens and raise food. There was a famine in the land and too many mouths to feed. Secondly, they had over-mortgaged their homes. They were taking the equity out of their homes and mortgaging them just to put food on the table. Third, taxes were high. The people were borrowing money to pay their taxes. Fourth, some of the people were even selling their family members as slaves to raise money. High taxes, high mortgages, high prices, forced overtime -- sounds like the business section of today's paper.
However, the real problem for Nehemiah and the people of God was their conflict with one another. The rich Jews were exploiting the poor Jews in a time of crisis. They were taking advantage and capitalizing on the misfortunes of the poor people. They were exploiting one another. Rather than helping and giving to the poor, they were charging high interest, repossessing their homes, and taking their children as slaves - expressing total disregard for the misfortunes of other people, only thinking of themselves.
James writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it.” (James 4:1) What causes conflict? Selfishness. Everyone tends to be selfish in one way or another. Everyone wants their own way and that causes conflict. It's all because of selfishness. It is worse than fighting an enemy.
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
Reflect on the last few conflicts in which you were involved? How many were started because of selfishness? How many of were fueled from YOUR own selfishness? How could you have reacted differently? Pray and ask the Lord to give you wisdom as you consider. If you’re leading your family through this devotion time, ask them the questions above, dialogue about your answers, then pray as a family.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I know that everyone is selfish, including me. Next time a conflict arises, help me to reconsider my ways to see if my own selfishness is the cause. In the name of Jesus, Amen..