Nehemiah 3 is littered with examples of people who had social and political clout. It’s full of people for whom labouring on a building site wouldn’t be where you’d expect to find them. But they did their bit. They played team, got involved and did what had to be done. And so the comment in (5) about the nobles from Tekoa strikes a jarring note.
5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.
They decided not to get involved. We’re not told why. They clearly resented being told what to do by their supervisors, so perhaps they thought this work was beneath them. We may be tempted to think that they were work shy aristocrats. And we may be right. But before we judge them too harshly, it’s worth asking whether there are ministries in the church that we think are beneath us. Is chair stacking really what someone with a 2:1 from Cambridge ought to be doing? Durham perhaps, but not Cambridge. I jest. I wouldn’t trust a job of such complexity to a Durham man. I jest again.
But when our church has a recruitment drive for crèche helpers aren’t we tempted to think that looking after babies is beneath someone like us? But this is a ministry that enables both parents to hear the word of God on a regular basis. It’s a ministry that contributes to the growth of the church.
But the nobles of Tekoa teach us that when building the kingdom of God we can’t rely on everyone playing ball. There’ll always be a bunch of individuals who decide to be non-compliant. But the work carried on regardless. The walls were built. And sadly, for them, they missed out on the joy of being a part of it. Presumably this will always be the case. A church is unlikely to get 100% co-operation from everyone. There’ll always be a dissenting minority, perhaps even vocal who will not join in with what everyone else is doing.
What do we learn from this? God built the walls without the co-operation of the awkward squad. Nothing is going to stand in his way of fulfilling is promise to build the Kingdom of God. Not even the non-compliance of people who think that working hard to build the church is beneath them. So crack on. Don’t let their negativity get you down. Enjoy building the church. And trust the Lord.