When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel …and said, “Let us help you build…” Ezra 4:1
Ezra immediately identifies these people as “enemies” yet it seems they want to help. They said, “because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here” (v.2).
The problem was they did not worship the Lord exclusively. If the returning exiles had let these people help them they would have had some claim to the temple and used it to worship other gods. These people eventually became Samaritans.
Some commentators criticise the Jews for not letting these people help and suggest that the Samaritans would not have become a separate group of people if they had. Yet the Jews’ motive was to keep their worship of God pure and have nothing to do with foreign gods. This is entirely understandable when you consider that they have just returned from a seventy year exile which came about largely because of idol worship.
Perhaps the things that really confirms these people as enemies is once they weren’t allowed to help they become persistently discouraging (v.4-5). It revealed their mixed motives.
Sometimes not being allowed to help is the thing that reveals motives. How to we feel when we are stopped by others from performing some act of service or helpful deed? Do we become angry and disillusioned? If so, perhaps we need to consider why we offered to help. Were we hoping to gain something in return? A monetary gift, grateful acknowledgement, favour, or a boost in our self-esteem?
Let’s do our giving unconditionally simply because we want to bless someone else.