Have you ever had someone call you on your stuff? Someone who encouraged you to go to the next level? Someone who challenged you to be more than you thought you could be?
Moses had just such a person in his life–his wife’s father, Jethro.
“Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything that God had done for Moses and the people of Israel when he led them out of Egypt. Jethro came with Moses’ wife and her two sons into the desert where Moses was camped at the holy mountain. He had sent word to Moses that they were coming” (Exodus 18:1,5-6).
Moses filled Jethro in on everything that God had done since they had last saw each other. Providing shelter, manna, quail, water from a rock, light through a pillar by day and a cloud at night.
But as Jethro listened, he could hear the tiredness in Moses’ voice. Moses grew tired of solving the Israelites’ problems. Jethro probably feared that Moses was on the verge of a break-down.
Who did the Israelites complain to? Moses. Who did they bring their disputes to? Moses. When they didn’t get their way, who did they yell at? Moses. When they were in trouble, who did they run to? Moses.
Day in and day out, all Moses ever heard was a steady stream of complaints: “We need water, Moses,” “We need meat, Moses,” “We are so tired, Moses.”
After watching Moses settle disputes among the people from morning until night, Jethro challenged Moses, “What is all this that you are doing for the people? Why are you doing this all alone, with people standing here from morning until night to consult you?”
“I must do this because the people come to me to learn God’s will,” came Moses’ reply. Moses was saying, “But Jethro, I have an obligation to the people.”
“You are not doing this right. You will wear yourself out and these people as well. This is too much for you to do alone,” Jethro admonished Moses.
Let’s take a look at what he told Moses:
“It is right for you to represent the people before God and bring their disputes to him. You should teach them God’s commands and explain to them how they should live and what they should do” (Exodus 18:19b-20).
He started out with a compliment. Instead of being on the defensive, Moses was now more receptive to hearing what Jethro had to say.
“But in addition, you should choose some capable men and appoint them as leaders of the people: leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens” (Exodus 18:21a).
He was saying to Moses, “You are doing great, Moses, but here’s how I think you might save time, energy and make the process more effective for everyone involved.”
He provided a solution. Most people are not open to others’ suggestions because they believe their way is the only right way. That is pride, and pride is one of the seven deadly sins.
We must learn to listen to others’ suggestions because we might just find a much better solution.
“They must be God-fearing men who can be trusted and who cannot be bribed. Let them serve as judges for the people on a permanent basis” (Exodus 18:21b-22a).
He spelled out for Moses what the qualifications for these men should be and for how long they should serve. When we are too vague in our suggestions, people might not understand how to execute them effectively.
“They can bring all the difficult cases to you, but they themselves can decide all the smaller disputes” (Exodus 18:22b).
He also clarified Moses’ role in the matter.
We learn from this that a good friend will call you on the things you are doing wrong. They will hold you accountable, according to the Word of God.
Do they do this because they want to criticize you? No, they do it to encourage you to be a better person, to help you see where you are going off-track, potentially preventing you from getting into trouble in the future.
Sometimes we are too close to the problem and cannot see the things in our lives that are glaringly obvious to those around us.
If we truly want to be a good friend, we too must call people on their stuff...and give our friends permission to call us on ours.