Suggested Reading: Nehemiah 5:1-8
I read a story once about a family who went to Abilene, Texas for the day. A son and his new wife had come back home to San Angelo to visit his parents. Saturday morning when they woke up, Dad suggested they go to Abilene for the day and grab lunch there. Everyone agreed and they climbed into a car with no air conditioning to make the 70 mile trip to Abilene on a hot Summer day. The rising heat made the trip miserable. They got to Abilene, picked a place to eat, and had a meal that was not very good. Not being able to decide what else to do, they headed home to San Angelo, enduring another hour and a half in the summer heat with no air conditioning.
When they got home, they got to talking and discovered that no one actually wanted to go to Abilene in the first place. Dad assumed that his newly married son and his wife would want to do something more exciting than stay home or putter around San Angelo. The son assumed dad wanted to go to Abilene and he wanted to make dad happy. The women assumed the men were both gung-ho on the idea. So all four ended up getting in the car and going on a miserable trip that no one ever wanted to take in the first place. All because no one ever spoke up and said, "I don't think this is a good idea."
In Nehemiah chapter 5, a problem had arisen where the rich were exploiting the poor of the land who had come inside the city of Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall and protect their families. In order to eat, these poor families had to take out loans and their fellow countrymen had begun charging such outrageous interest that these families began selling their children into slavery in order to stay afloat. Nehemiah had come in and begun buying back these children and the creditors realized they could make even more money if they exploited the people more, causing more children to be sold into slavery, and prompting Nehemiah and his officials to buy the people back. It was quite a profitable little scheme that Nehemiah didn't seem to be aware of. Until someone spoke up.
"Some were saying, 'We our sons, and our daughters are numerous. Let us get grain that we may live.' Others were saying, 'We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards and homes to get grain during the famine.' Still others were saying, 'We have borrowed money to pay the king's tax on our fields and vineyards. We and our children are just like their countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless because our fields and vineyards belong to others." (Nehemiah 5:2-5, HCSB). Once the people spoke up, Nehemiah was able to address the problem and put an end to the extortion. But up to that point, Nehemiah had been so busy supervising the work of the wall and trying to help people out of debt that he hadn't caught onto the racket some people had been running.
Sometimes, we assume people know exactly what is going on when they don't. Sometimes we think people are comfortable with a situation they don't know anything about. And sometimes we let problems become much bigger than they have to be because we never speak up about them. Yes, there are times when the battle is not worth fighting. But some battles would never come to blows if we simply spoke up before things got of hand.
Don't assume that the problem you see is obvious to everyone. Speak up before things get worse than they need to be.