Monday, February 8, 2021

For Goodness Sake

Did you read it? We're talking about the story of Jethro's visit to Moses after Israel left Egypt, and I told you that there was something else vitally important that Jethro had to say about what Moses was doing and that even if you read the story, you might still miss it (primarily because it's not the kind of thing that we are prone to notice in our pride and self-centeredness). So did you read it?

Jethro told Moses that what he was doing was not good for him, that it was unsustainable. He could not keep it up. He could not be the one and only judge for all of the Israelite people forever; he would burn himself out. 

But here's what Jethro also says, what we're prone to miss because we're always thinking that everything is about us: 

It's not good for the people, either.

It isn't good for Moses to be the only judge for the entire nation, and it isn't good for the nation if Moses is their only judge. In other words, nobody's winning here. 

This is hard for us. It's hard because we tend to think that when we're doing everything, we're making sure it's done right. And if it's done right, then it's a blessing for everyone, isn't it? We know that we do things with the utmost of attention and care and skill, and doesn't that mean that everyone benefits from the work that we're doing when we're the ones doing it? We like to make ourselves indispensable, and part of that is proving that everyone is better off when we're in charge of things. 

But what Jethro says is...they're not. Not everyone benefits from your generous gift of yourself to them. The people are not better off when you're doing everything for them. 

And that seems strange on the surface. If you've got a problem in your life, isn't Moses the guy you want solving it for you? Doesn't it seem natural to go to the man of God in your camp and see what he has to say about things? Moses was known for his wisdom, for his faith, for his steadfastness. He's exactly the guy you want judging your case. 

Unless he's not. 

Unless having Moses do everything for everyone means that you have to wait, sometimes a long time, to get an audience with him. While you're waiting, your own insecurity takes over. Or your anger. Or maybe your hatred. Moses could not possibly judge every case before it festered, and once things start festering in a people...well, you know what happens. Anyone with coworkers or family or friends knows what happens. 

Or maybe you have to travel a long distance to get to Moses. Maybe you're trying to take a lot of evidence with you, or maybe you're holding something broken together, trying to preserve it in just the state that you found it - without making it better or worse. Now, your travel is a problem. And you think to yourself that Moses ought to come to you, if he really cared about you as a person. 

Now, all of a sudden, you're upset with Moses - and he hasn't even done anything yet! (That is, of course, why you're upset with him, but I digress.) And then that bitterness, too, starts to fester. And before you know it, there are all kinds of whispers in the camp about who this Moses thinks he is and how highly he must think of himself. (In fact, we see that as the story progresses - a group of men wants to know why Moses is so special and takes it upon themselves to be special, too, and then God smites them. But that's another story for another time.) 

And here we are with a man of God that the people are grumbling against because it doesn't take much, just one perceived slight, for the people to think that Moses doesn't really care about them at all. And when you think that your leader doesn't care about you, it's easy to disconnect from his leadership. Now, we're a people wandering in the wilderness without a leader because he doesn't care about us anyway, and if that's the case, then how are we ever supposed to get to the Promised Land? And why would we want to go with these people anyway? Our neighbor wronged us; we hate him. Our leader doesn't really care about us; we don't care about him, either. We've had all the time in the world for our bitterness and woundedness and insecurity to fester, and now, here we are, a people festering in the middle of nowhere...all because we put everything we had into the hands of one guy from whom it's hard to get a return on investment because he's so busy with everything and everyone else. 

And that's how a people lose their way. They lose their way by only having one guy to follow. By staking everything on the one-man show. 

Jethro knows this, and that's why he calls it out. Moses, this isn't good for you, and it isn't good for them. It doesn't matter how good of a guy you are, you're about to lose it for everyone. And for what? 

It's a hard pill to swallow, but we have to be willing to understand that we are not God's gift to men and that this world isn't really better off if we're running it by ourselves. It's better to spread the work around. 

That's true, by the way, not just in life, but in ministry and evangelism, as well. More on that, tomorrow. 

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