37567482_sNehemiah 11:1 The leaders of the people were already living in Jerusalem, so the rest of the people drew lots to get one out of ten to move to Jerusalem, the holy city, while the other nine remained in their towns. The people applauded those who voluntarily offered to live in Jerusalem.

The Talented Tenth is a term that designated a leadership class of African Americans in the early 20th century. The term was created by Northern philanthropists, then publicized by W. E. B. Du Bois an influential essay of the same name, which he published in September 1903. It appeared in The Negro Problem, a collection of essays written by leading African Americans

Du Bois thesis was that these talented tenth, 1 out of every 10 blacks, would excel in higher education and lead the masses of poor blacks into a brighter day. He later realized that the talented tenth had to stay amongst and work with those masses of indigenous poor people who had aspirations for better.

Often times what happens with our talented tenth of have experienced success and wealth through education is that they move away taking their talents with them. They assimilate to the safety of the suburbs leaving behind those that are struggling in with social injustice, poverty, and inequality. The talented tenth leave struggling neighborhoods in search of safer neighborhoods. They leave churches anchored in communities in need of ministry for greener pastures in suburban churches where they can assimilate into obscurity without much demand for involvement into social justice or community transformation. The talented tenth of today have lost connection with the village and pretty much insulate themselves with the pursuit of comfort and luxury instead of the transformation of its people and community.

When Nehemiah went back to restore the walls in Jerusalem and empower his people he needed help rebuilding it. From all the surrounding towns they selected one out of ten to go re-gentrify their community. This rebuilding process would not work without the talented tenth coming back.

If we are going to turn around our struggling communities and empower our people trapped in poverty we need the talented tenth!

  1. You cannot change anything from the outside. Whether it’s your church, community, or city; you can’t change anything by abandoning it. You must be the change you want to see.
  2. Give back your time, talent, and treasure. Jesus said, “it’s not those that are well that need a doctor but the sick.” When we take our best resources to communities that are already prosperous or organizations that are not in impoverished communities we are the talented tenth operating in reverse. We must come back to the places where we are needed.
  3. Come back to say thank you! When Jesus healed ten lepers only one of them came back to say thank you and he wasn’t even a Jew. Jesus asked him, “did I not heal 10, where are the other 9?!” Where are the successful black people in poor neighborhoods? Where are the successful people in community engagement? Yes we can live in nice neighborhoods and take our children to good schools but we have to come back to give back.
  4. Some of us need to move back. When Corey Booker became Mayor of Newark he moved to the most dangerous part of the city. He said that security for the mayor was paid for by the city so he might as well use it where it was needed. He transformed this city by his presence and his resources.

If you are successful; educated, concerned about social justice you are part of the talented tenth. The question is are you part of the solution or part of the problem? If you are not pouring back into the communities that need help the most through your civic organizations, your places of worship, and your individual contributions then you are like the 9 people Jesus healed that kept running to the church out in the suburbs but never came back to say “thank you!” We need you to come back!

Dear God,

Help us to make changes from the inside out. Our communities need to see the best of us help the rest of us. To whom much is given much is required. Help us to rebuild our cities and communities by coming back to give back. You’ve been too good for us to turn our backs on the people who need us the most. You said, “Whatever we do for the least of these we all so do to you.” Help us to do right by you by giving our time, treasure and talent.

In Jesus Name,

Amen