Doing too much?
Ever have that overwhelming feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? If yes, you can relate to this story.
After the Israelites left Egypt, but before they received the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro met with them. The night he arrived was filled with celebration for everything God had done to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians. However, the next day Jethro noticed a problem – and took the opportunity to advise and mentor Moses:
The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”
Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another. I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”
Moses mistakenly believed that since God spoke to him and he was the one who knew God’s law the best, then he had to be the one to settle all the disputes among the people. From the outside looking in, doesn’t it seem a little absurd that an 80-year-old Moses would try to justify being the only judge/advisor/teacher for 2 million people?
However, it probably started out small – with a few people bringing their issues to Moses. He’s the God-appointed leader, so it would make sense to get his opinion and his decision. However, by the time Jethro came to visit, the situation was well out of hand. What’s important to note is that Moses’ mentor didn’t just point out what was wrong with the situation, but Jethro also offered a good solution:
“What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him. “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.
Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.
But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as officials of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They should judge the people at all time. Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves.
In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you. If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”
After spending just one day observing Moses’ work schedule, it was quite apparent to Jethro that how Moses managed his responsibilities was not sustainable – Moses was getting worn out and it was impossible to decide on every person’s case every single day.
Isn’t that what happens to us? How many times have we justified our unwillingness to delegate by saying:
“If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself”
When we insist on lifting more weight than we can physically carry, we pull a muscle and have to be side-lined until the injury heals. When we take on more responsibility than we are capable of handling, we will quickly become burnt-out, which also leads to being side-lined. Jethro saw that Moses was heading straight for a burn out, and if that happened, Moses would no longer be an effective leader for the nation of Israel, nor would he be able to represent the nation to God.
As a mentor, Jethro stepped in at the right moment with the right advice. Also notice that Jethro still left it up to Moses to decide how to handle the situation – he could continue on as he had, or he could humbly accept his mentor’s advice.
Afterward, Moses did exactly what Jethro suggested, and everyone benefited. Moses’ example proves that we’re never “too old”, “too accomplished”, or even “too spiritual” to need wise counsel from a mentor.