Nehemiah 5:14-19 - Leading By Example

Dr. Steve Viars August 24, 1996 Nehemiah 5:14-19

- The last couple of weeks we've been studying Nehemiah chapter 5.
- INPUT - What is the relationship between Nehemiah 4 and Nehemiah 5? How do they fit together? (Chapter 4 talks about opposition from without, chapter 5 deals with opposition from within)

- These verses in chapter 5 have given us some tremendous lessons on how godly people deal with problems with one another.
- This morning, we'd like to look at verses 14-19, and study the matter of "Leading By Example."

- READ 5:14-19


- Before we look at this passage verse by verse, let's talk about the matter of leading by example:

1) What's wrong with the person whose motto is; "Do as I say and not as I do?"


- cf. Titus 2:7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,

- 1Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

- Effective servants of God realize that their lifestyle will either greatly enhance their ministry, or ruin it.
- cf. I Tim. 3 - qualifications for pastors and deacons.

- "Your talk talks, and you walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks!"

- another important point we need to make about these verses in an introductory way is:

2) Special times sometimes require special sacrifices.

- If we weren't careful, we could make these verses say something that they simply don't say. (cf. hermeneutics -- I Cor. 9:14 - "the laborer is worthy of his hire.")

- However, Nehemiah believed that the unusual circumstances required unusual sacrifice.

- A similar thing happened in the early church.
- INPUT - Can you think of how this was true in Acts 2?

- Acts 2:44-45 - And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

- That obviously was not the norm, and it was not continued by the churches that the epistles were written to.
- But sometimes special circumstances require special sacrifice.

- With those thoughts in mind, we're ready to study through the passage.
- We're looking for three principles to help us lead by example.

I. Learn to Handle the Privileges of Leadership

- Nehemiah begins this section with: "Moreover, from the day I was appointed to be their governor..."

- so the context is talking about promotion, or advancement.

A. Advancement is often a crucial test of one's character.

Thomas Carlyle once said, "Adversity is hard on a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity."

- the reason this is true is because promotion often brings additional privileges, and how a person handles those privileges will reveal volumes about them.

- INPUT - What kinds of privileges often come with promotion?

- Nehemiah was in that same position in that the promotion he had received gave him many privileges that he could either use to benefit himself, or to more effectively do the work of God.

- one truth that will help us when we find ourselves in this position is:

B. Remember your promotion's source.

Psa 75:5 Do not lift up your horn on high, Do not speak with insolent pride. For not from the east, nor from the west, Nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another.

- The way Nehemiah handled the privileges of leadership showed that he understood this important truth.

- The "other side of this"

C. Don't go into the ditch of avoiding promotions.

- some believers might think through this issue this morning and conclude, 'well, if those kind of temptations come with promotion...then to avoid the temptation I better refuse all promotions."

- Thats not the case.
- This world needs competent believers at every strata of leadership...whether we're talking about business, politics, education, etc.

- One man in the Bible named Jabez even asked for promotion when he said:

1Ch 4:10 Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain me!" And God granted him what he requested.

- Of course a prayer like this could be wrong for dozens of reasons, but there is nothing wrong with a person accepting a promotion, or even desiring one if their goal is to use any additional influence to more faithfully serve the Lord.

- A verse that explains the importance of this is:

Pro 29:2 When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.

- So the overall point is -- Don't use the privileges of leadership to serve the flesh.

- INPUT - What are some ways Nehemiah purposely did not abuse his "leadership privileges?"

1) Did not take the food allowance - v. 14

2) Did not tax the people - v. 15

3) Led his "kinsmen" to behave the same way - v. 14

- INPUT - What questions do we need to be asking ourselves as we think about this first point?

1) Am I abusing my privileges of leadership in any way?

2) Do I place the emphasis on leading by example that I should?

II. Learn to Handle the Policies of Leadership

- Some of you may be listening to what we're studying today and thinking..."If I did that, there would be a group of people who would be very upset with me" (namely the people who worked under the previous leader who benefited from the policies).

- For example, you may be promoted at work and find out that your previous boss was dishonest and his dishonesty benefited the employees that formerly answered to him and now answer to you.
- the point is --- there may be some pressure to keep doing things the way they've always been done:

A. But that’s the way we've always done it!

- the previous governors had been wicked men.
- INPUT - What are some of the things the text says they did?

1) Laid burdens on the people.

2) Took from them bread and wine

3) Took money (40 shekels of silver)

4) Allowed their servants to domineer the people

- so the policies of the previous leaders was to use their power to enrich themselves.

INPUT - How might a believer in our class find himself in a similar situation?

INPUT - What should a believer do if he finds himself in that position?

- another way this passage is helpful is that it tells us:

B. Why Nehemiah avoided these sinful practices.


- verse 15 - "But I did not do so because of the fear of the Lord."

- There's some real implications of this to you and me.
- How we handle this area of our lives can show just how much we fear the Lord.

- One last principle that flows out of this passage is:

III. Learn To Handle the Priorities of Leadership

A. He applied himself to working on the wall.

- One of the reasons Nehemiah avoided this sinful selfishness was because he was focused on getting this job done for the Lord.
- Busyness and focus in God's service is a wonderful deterrent to sin.

B. He did not buy any land.

- cf. verse 16

- Nehemiah could have "cleaned up" from a real estate perspective because of the famine and the difficult position many of these people were in.
- We saw earlier in the chapter that many people were having to sell their land to get food.
- He could have "made a killing."
- But Nehemiah wasn't going to let anything mar his priorities.

- There's nothing wrong with making a good deal, or making money...but how many of God's people pass up service for Him which could reap eternal dividends to gain some material thing that will just pass away with time.

C. He instructed his "staff" to serve and work.

- Nehemiah also points out that the people he had control over were instructed to help get the job done.

- They weren't to consider themselves too important to get their hands dirty.
- Nehemiah not only led by example, but he made sure his employees did the same.

D. He cared for the material needs of others.

- Verse 17

- Why? Because the servitude was heavy on the people.

- cf. uncle George

Conclusion - verse 19 -- There are eternal rewards for this kind of lifestyle.

Mat 6:19 - Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video