The book of Nehemiah is one of my personal favorites in the Old Testament. It is the inspired diary of the man who oversaw the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem after the return from captivity. The rebuilding of the wall was a feat not often seen because of the ways and means by which it was accomplished. People from all walks of life were working on the project. In chapter 3 there is an extensive list of the builders of the wall. They were rulers and common men, priests and craftsmen, people of Jerusalem and families from the outlying towns and villages, men and women. All came together to work on this great project and the whole wall was built in a mere 52 days because the people had a mind to work (Neh. 4:6; 6:15).
However, within that list of workers in Nehemiah 3 there is one very interesting statement made by the author. He records in verse 5, “And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.” Of all the people in the region, and all of those listed as physically assisting with this project, the Tekoite nobles are the only ones stated to have refused the work building the wall. The reasons for their actions could be many, but the excuses are not enumerated in the text. What is important is that when the time came for the work to be done, they were absent.
Seeing this particular statement causes me to consider another question: what if Nehemiah were to write about the works done in our congregations, laying out the individuals and families that were fulfilling the duties and works of the church in each location, what would he say about me and my family?
It has often been repeated that in most congregations 10% of the people do 90% of the work. While in my experience I have no doubt of the general truth of such a statement, such is not the way it should be. We have a responsibility to be working in the Kingdom of the Lord (John 9:4; Jam. 1:25). The Lord’s church is not the place for the lazy or self-absorbed, but for the servant and workman (Mat. 20:1-16, 27-28). Therefore, it should be the case in every congregation that 100% of the work is done by 100% of the people. It is understood that there are varying degrees of ability and areas of expertise, but there is always more than enough work to go around and always the need for more hands and hearts willing to devote themselves to the task.
If Nehemiah were to write about you and your congregation, what would he say? Would he write of you as he did of so many in his time; how they took of their time, energy, and resources to ensure that the work was accomplished to the best of their ability? Or would he write of you as he did of the Tekoite nobles; that while others worked around you, you did nothing but stand back and watch?
Let us always be willing to put our hands to the task. There will never be too many workers in the Kingdom of God, but there are often far less than there should be. We must respond to the Lord’s tasks in the same manner the people responded to Nehemiah: “Let us rise up and build” (Neh. 2:18).