Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Exo 18:17-18
Thank God for the Jethroes ( and Jethrettes) in our lives. They are the men and women who provide sound counsel when we don’t even know we need it. It has been less than three months since Israel exited Egypt. The people have issues that required wisdom and judgment to settle their disputes. Jethro has come to drop off Moses’ wife and sons. While visiting, Jethro observes Moses’ pattern of judging disputes from morning to evening. Given the estimated millions who exited Egypt, it’s no surprise a fraction of them would consume all of Moses’ day.
Moses is fairly new at this, so it’s Jethro who helps him develop the necessary strategies for effectiveness. First, Moses is to make his relationship and time with the Lord the priority (Exo 18:16). He would be the people’s representative before God and bring the disputes to Him. He was also to teach them the people the laws and statutes of God. He needed to clarify the best use of his time and efforts. Then, Jethro told Moses to appoint men with the following characteristics: able men, reverence for God, truthful, and not greedy. He was to appoint them as leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. The leaders would judge minor day-to-day disputes. The major ones would be up channeled to Moses. The purpose was so that it would be easier on Moses and they all would share the burden.
The weight of leadership can be both a blessing and a burden. It is an honor and privilege whenever the Lord allows us to intersect and influence the lives of others. In this account, Jethro’s influence was a blessing to Moses, and Moses’ influence would bless others as well. At the same time, the burden of leadership is the responsibility of shouldering cares and decisions which can profoundly impact the lives of others. This can be overwhelming for some of us as we navigate the leadership landscape.
We don’t know why Moses made the mistake of thinking he could and should do it all himself. However, let’s focus on why we sometimes do it. As I’ve thought it through, there are a few excuses that resurface consistently in my own life.
“I’m not sure anyone else can do it as well as I can.” First, it just isn’t true, but the real danger is that it sets us up to take ourselves way too seriously. It may also betray an arrogance we’re unwilling to admit. The truth is there are others who can do it as well as (or better than) we can; however, they may not do it the same as we would. When we allow this mindset to get in the way of proper delegation of responsibility and authority, we set ourselves up for potential failure. We find ourselves hovering over people to determine whether they’re doing like we would or making the same decisions we would make. We end up stuck in neutral and unable to move forward. Consequently, no one grows in the process.
“I don’t know if others have the same passion for it that I have.” Uhhh…who says someone has to have the same passion we do in order to be effective at the same task or mission? We all have varying levels of passion, gifts and abilities. When each member of a team or community is allowed to contribute to the full capacity of his or her potential, the results reflect a beauty and grace that only happen with that type of unity and synergy. What would happen if we allowed the unique creativity of each member of our team or community to flow freely?
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1 Cor 12:14-18, ESV)
“I want to ensure we put our best efforts forward.” That sounds good in English. However, when translated into its original language (egospeakese), it comes out like this: “I want to ensure my agenda is promoted, and I take all the credit I feel I deserve.” I know that was harsh, but unless we deal with the reality that we’re sometimes “glory hounds promoting our own agenda,” we won’t do anything different. It’s worth it to examine the motive behind the leadership decisions we make. Ask yourself, “What is God’s best in this situation?” Take the focus off of you—it relieves so much pressure.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12, ESV)
In the end, the reasons Moses needed help were because it would make the task easier and free him for the more important and weightier matters. In following Jethro’s advice, Moses became pivotal in developing and raising up other leaders within the nation of Israel. In doing so, he provided the opportunity for success and failure—both are essential for facilitating growth and development. That kind of leadership means seeing past yourself and possessing vision for the development of others.
Consider your own life for a moment. Is the task too heavy? What are the more weighty matters for you? Are you able to focus and give them the attention they deserve? Are there people around you who could help you carry the load? Are you shouldering too much responsibility and authority and hindering the growth potential of those around you?
Stay close to Him. Live beautiful.