Nechemia Five: Leading by Example

In this chapter, the people are collectively in massive debt. They couldn’t afford to read themselves and raise their children, so they took out loans, and now they’re literally drowning in the excessive debt they’ve accrued. Nehemia is distressed about this reality, and he brings together the creditors, all of whom are also among the Jewish people. He admonishes them, telling them to forgive the debts. They agree. “I also shook out my garment and said, ‘So shall God shake out any man who does not fulfill this matter, from his house and from his toil, so shall he be shaken out and empty.’ Then the entire congregation said, ‘Amen,’ and they praised the Lord, and the people did according to this word (Nehemia 5:13).” I see Nehemia as a peak leader in this moment, because he actively and graphically leads by example. It would have been so easy to call out the others, or to internally express sympathy with the indebted Israelites, without admitting to his own part in the system. Instead, Nehemia identified himself as part of the problem, and participated in a physical act to mark it. As I’ve written about before, I believe that experiential education is the best way of learning, and he utilized that principle in order to make his point in an impactful way.


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