“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11.

Most Christians have heard the story of Nehemiah. On the surface it looks like a long list of names of people doing work, but it is so much more. But if we look a little closer and read a little slower we might find something that’s insightful and has something to teach us, even in a book that looks like a list of names of people doing work. Names like Berechiah and Meshezabel, Zadok and the daughters of Shallum to name a few. Nehemiah was building a wall. The goal of the wall was making the city of Jerusalem defensible.

Organizing that effort and deciding who worked where was quite a job for Nehemiah. The book of Nehemiah is full of people you would not expect to see working on a building site. But they did their bit. They got involved and did what had to be done. For example, we read in Nehemiah 3:14: “The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, the leader of the Beth-hakkerem district. He rebuilt it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.” You have to have respect for Malchijah. Who would want to build the dung gate? It’s hard to imagine people waving their hands saying to Nehemiah, “dude, I want to do that job.” But somebody had to do it and Malchijah humbly takes on this objectionable task for the overall good. 

Another section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.” (Nehemiah 3:5 NIV) They decided not to get involved. We’re not told why. They clearly resented being told what to do by their supervisors. The nobles want the benefit of the project without being willing to contribute or help to make it happen. That kind of attitude: being uncooperative, selfish, and unwilling to do one’s part to make things better is because of pride.

Who do we want to be, the nobles of Tekoa, or Malchijah? The answer is choosing humility over pride.  Augustine gave the following advice to people who are faced with that decision. “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is the difference between the nobles of Tekoa and Milchijah played out today in what we will or won’t do?
  2. Are there any ways you are actively seeking to become more humble? Are there strategies, approaches, or attitudes that have helped you in the past? 
  3. What is at least one way you can practice humility in the coming week?