EXODUS 18: LEADERSHIP ADVICE FOR A SON-IN-LAW
Eduard Franz as Jethro with Charlton Heston as Moses in the classic movie, The Ten Commandments.
Preparing to read Exodus 18
What is happening in Exodus 18? Zipporah, the wife of Moses, has given birth to two sons, Gershom, a name that reminded Moses that he was an alien in a strange land; and Eliezer, a name that reminded Moses and Zipporah that God saved Israel from the sword of Pharaoh. Now Zipporah's father, Jethro, the priest of Midian, comes to visit Moses. Moses is trying to be a good leader and hearing disputes between people and dispensing the "will of God." That's when Jethro comes to visit, and the action of this chapter centers around some important advice this father-in-law has for his son-in-law.
My father-in-law is a wise man and has given me advice many times. There is mutual respect and love between us. I am very blessed to have both a father and father-in-law who have gently urged me to make changes in my life, rather than coming down hard. Moses got some very important advice as a son-in-law that came in this gentle manner of the father-in-law's urging.
Moses was like today's pastors who try to do everything for everyone. They are living what Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr call the "False Self." Renouncing this false self is at the heart of the spiritual journey in any age, including the days of Moses and today. Was Moses trying to impress his father-in-law with how busy and powerful he was? Are you trying to impress anyone with how busy you are, with how many people "work for you," with how many important decisions you make? Who in the process are you preventing from using their God-given wisdom to live, work, and bring justice in this world?
You can see a coach's pride and ineffectiveness when you look at a soccer field or basketball court and players are standing around waiting for the head coach to say stuff, waiting in lines for drills. There's no reason for this. Assistant coaches, even players, can lead drills and no one needs to stand around. Jethro's advice is not heeded in courts. While justice is done in courts, justice is also forestalled because one of the activities that takes the most time is lawyers and judges postponing court dates and taking court time to constantly push justice forward. Jethro's advice is some of the most unheeded in life. Let others make decisions! Don't harbor responsibility when you can share it with people standing around. Share purpose and send people to do good. Don't stall justice because you haven't learned to delegate and entrust wisdom and judgment to other wise folks.
God of Wisdom, forbid us to pretend to hold authority and decision-making power we ought to delegate to others. Help us to trust our children and grandchildren to make decisions for the good of your world. Help us to trust and entrust those we may manage to make decisions for the best for all.
Is there something you are putting off delegating or deciding that ought to be someone else's decision? Is there someone you are failing to empower to use wisdom because you have established that you are the place of wisdom and advice where they always should come? Are you trying to impress someone with your power and authority over many people? Is part of your vocabulary, "she works for me"? or "he works for me?" In what ways are you oppressing people's sense of freedom to be wise themselves, rather than empowering them?
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.