This WORKTALKweekly is in two parts and was broadcast on two consecutive weeks in case you wanted to read them in one go.
Perhaps there is a law or a piece of code written into the design of the universe which determines that, as soon as you make a good decision or do the right thing, then you get opposition.
In western politics we have institutionalised the concepts of opposition so almost any decision is met with criticism or resistance. In the mother of parliaments in London every minister has their shadow minister and the cabinet its shadow.
You don’t need me to spell it out for you because if you have been on the pro-active side of an enterprise you will know what it is to feel the re-active energy of critics. It is even enshrined in the law of motion concerning action and reaction.
Look through history and reformers in the fields of religion, politics or education – even when the reforms are desperately needed, encounter the opposition, usually of parties with vested interests. Pitch a new idea and you will get a frosty response. Thankfully there are companies these days who actually encourage innovation, creativity and lateral thinking -of course they get criticized by other companies!
I’m going to propose that as we look into Nehemiah’s mind we don’t focus on the opposition but how he dealt with it
We left off our last look with the Israelites beginning a good work. Immediately three local leaders mocked, ridiculed and questioned both the actions and the motivations.
You already know Nehemiah had a tender heart moved to tears and prayers. You know he has a spiritual and gentle mind infused with wisdom. In his response to the mockery and opposition you can see a strong minded, assertive element in his inner life.
The biggest office building in the world was started on September 11th 1941. It covers some six and a half million square feet. It is known around the world as its name and its shape are synonymous. It houses the United States department of defence and is called the pentagon.
Nehemiah’s mind is that of a wall builder. When faced with mockery, ridicule and attack he constructs a five-sided pentagon of defence which is remarkable in its structure. If you will look at it you will see an amazing five sided model which you can use in your five sided Monday to Friday.
Here is his pentagon:
The God of Heaven will give us success
We His servants will start rebuilding
You have no share
You have no claim
You have no historic right
Here we go. Nehemiah’s first mental wall contains a profound mystery. To unlock it ask yourself about your work. Do I believe the God of heaven will give me success? It contains so much, you could did deep into its meaning. But check out these few thoughts. Nehemiah had connected all his work to the God of Heaven. The Nazarene who followed after, but existed before, said that he only did what He saw the Father doing. All work, all work, all work is dependent upon the God of Heaven (even if the workers don’t believe in him by the way). The next bit is the tricky one. How about success? What does it look like?
Unfortunately, in many cultures, success is equated with financial prosperity, beauty, fame, power, security and sometimes many children. Somehow God’s stamp of approval is revealed, we think, in these ways. If that was correct most of this world’s population, and most of the world’s Christians, would be called failures. Our problem is we equate success with the gods of earth not the God of heaven. If you want to know what success looks like you will need to travel-in-time to a hill not far in distance from where Nehemiah is standing at this point, and look at an execution. A man dying on a cross does not look like success but there it is. I cannot spell it out for you but I have spelt if out in a book called ‘Jesus and the Racing Rat’ and all WORKTALK materials spell out this same truth.
I will make one suggestion as a summary. Success is about learning to do the right thing at the right time. Such success includes learning how to handle mistakes, failings and setbacks rather than their absence. Success is about seeking the God of Heaven even when you fall.
Second of his five walls contains energy, determination, actions and targets. But don’t miss the foundation. The foundation is identity. Nehemiah describes himself and the others as “his servants”. When asked, what do you do? is top of you list, “I am his servant”, your job title is “His servant”. If you can marinade in that wine for a while it will transform your week from the inside out. Simply apply it to every single thing you do and watch what happens. Remember the “His servants” that Nehemiah was referring to were men and women in trades professions and business who were all about to become construction workers. Priests were included, but Nehemiah means all workers as he speaks here.
Nehemiah’s mind now uses three exclusion clauses to build his remaining three sides of the pentagon. Ask your self this question. In any project, how important is people selection? Read whatever discipline you wish on best practice and you will discover that choosing who you work with and who you will not work with is absolutely crucial for progress and achievement.
If you are a leader – who’s in and who’s out of your team? If you are a team member which team will you join or not join? If you sell, to whom will you sell or not sell? If you are a buyer, from whom will you buy or not buy? By defining who he will not have sharing in his work, Nehemiah gives you a powerful instrument to help you measure your steps. It is hard to turn something down, walk away or refuse to collaborate, but if the people dynamic is wrong, Nehemiah is clear -I will not share this work with you.
Nehemiah’s mind is also adamant that he will delineate between who has and has not claims in this work project. It’s his fourth wall. May I translate it for you into your work? Who has a claim on your time, talent and energy and who does not? Many employees find themselves trying to meet needs of multiple bosses or colleagues. Stress rises when it is not clear who can claim your attention. In Nehemiah’s thinking there are some people (his fellow servants) who had a legitimate claim in numerous areas but others did not. Perhaps you would like to see how your time and resource management would adjust if you clarified this issue in your own life.
Nehemiah’s fifth mental wall, completing his pentagon, could have been spoken in a thousand courts around the globe. He is defining rights over work and property. In his case he is referring to the city of Jerusalem, but he is also referring to the idea of Jerusalem.
Again, if we translate it you may like to reflect on your views on rights over work and property. Many lawyers have made their fortunes in such disputes but I will resolve this piece with one important question.
I hinted that Jerusalem was a place and an idea. Many of today’s disputes are over ideas, not places. Here’s a question for you. Is there such a thing as intellectual property? Nehemiah’s bold statement to his critics was that they had no historic right to Jerusalem.
I want to suggest that, as you to consider integrating you faith with work you perhaps realize that it is essential that Christians as individuals and corporately as churches engage ethically in the matter of intellectual property. Again, Nehemiah was clear who did and who didn’t have historic rights in his project.
In today’s world millions of people earn their living from their ideas. They write songs, develop courses, produce literature, preach sermons, invent systems and produce original products. Software engineers invent solutions and hardware engineers create devices.
It is a challenge to us all to reach a place of integrity when it comes to our own ideas and the ideas of others. It is a paradox that you wouldn’t dream of stealing a car but you would, in a heartbeat, steal an idea.
Nehemiah’s fifth wall stood firmly for the fair use of rights. Playing fast and loose with other peoples ideas results in loss of income for the inventor. Watch Apple and Samsung slug it out and you will see that ideas matter. My suggestion is that, as Christians, we should find a way of identifying who has historic rights over an idea, an invention or a design – material or intellectual – and then honour that right.
Nehemiah was clear and his walls, like the pentagon, connect firmly together to form a noble structure designed to defend and protect, not just a nation, but a dream.
Nehemiah’s mind was way ahead of his time and that’s why you can see if your thinking can catch up with his.
Nehemiah Chapter 3
Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. 2 Next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.
3 Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4 Next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz made repairs. And next to him Meshullam the son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel made repairs. And next to him Zadok the son of Baana also made repairs. 5 Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.
6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars. 7 Next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, also made repairs for the official seat of the governor of the province beyond the River. 8 Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of Furnaces. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters.
13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall to the Refuse Gate.
14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem repaired the Refuse Gate. He built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars.
15 Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, the official of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it, covered it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, official of half the district of Beth-zur, made repairs as far as a point opposite the tombs of David, and as far as the artificial pool and the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites carried out repairs under Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, the official of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 After him their brothers carried out repairs under Bavvai the son of Henadad, official of the other half of the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the official of Mizpah, repaired another section in front of the ascent of the armory at the Angle. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz repaired another section, from the doorway of Eliashib’s house even as far as the end of his house. 22 After him the priests, the men of the valley, carried out repairs. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub carried out repairs in front of their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah, carried out repairs beside his house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah as far as the Angle and as far as the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai made repairs in front of the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs. 26 The temple servants living in Ophel made repairs as far as the front of the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 After them the Tekoites repaired another section in front of the great projecting tower and as far as the wall of Ophel.
28 Above the Horse Gate the priests carried out repairs, each in front of his house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer carried out repairs in front of his house. And after him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, carried out repairs. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah carried out repairs in front of his own quarters. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, carried out repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, in front of the Inspection Gate and as far as the upper room of the corner. 32 Between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants carried out repairs.
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