"Refinance now! Rates have never been lower" the ads say. If you can get a rate just one percent lower on your mortgage, think of all the money you could save! For us, interest rates are just a boring part of life, but in Nehemiah 5, one percent was the difference between right and wrong.
During a time of famine, many of the nobles and officials among the Jewish people saw an opportunity to get a little richer. They made loans to the people and charged them one percent interest on everything they borrowed. When people couldn't pay, they took their fields, their vineyards, and eventually enslaved their children.
Nehemiah hears of this and brings the people to account. He reminds them that they have been doing whatever they can to buy back their fellow people from foreign slave owners, and now the same problem is in their very midst. That one percent interest was the difference between helping those in need and doing a work of violence to those most vulnerable.
As governor, Nehemiah fed many of these same nobles at his table; he could tax the people a governor's share for the food, but instead paid the expense himself. This selfless care for the poor was an example to all around him and done out of reverence to God. O to be able to join him in his prayer:
Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.