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The Wisdom to Admit the Obvious

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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"What you're doing isn't a good idea. You'll burn out. This is way too much—you can't handle it by yourself. You need help."

Wise words, aren't they? Ancient words. Sound advice. Something we all need to hear occasionally.

Those words come at a particularly human moment in the Bible's book of Exodus. God has just delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Their great leader, Moses, has recently confronted the mighty Pharaoh and his armies—and won. God has called Moses to lead Israel, and Moses faces a gargantuan task.

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, says the difficult words to Moses, "You can't handle this alone." Jethro speaks to Moses at a family reunion of sorts. Moses has reunited with his wife, sons, and extended family after the victory over the Egyptians. He reports all that has happened, and they celebrate God's victory (Ex. 18:1-12). Imagine Jethro's joy in Moses' leadership: "Good work, son!" By now, the Hebrew people, numbering in the thousands, are in the Sinai wilderness. They must survive in the desert and complete a long and arduous journey to become a nation in the land God has promised. More than ever, the people need leadership.

The day after the celebration, as Jethro watches, the new leader, Moses, attempts to administer justice to the people. Listen to what transpires:

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?'

Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws."

Jethro replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice . . . You must be the people's representative before God . . . but select capable men from all the people . . . and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied" (Ex. 18:13-24, NIV).

"You can't do this alone. You'll burn out. You need help." Those words are as relevant in our homes and workplaces as when Jethro spoke them some 3,000 years ago. When we work too hard . . . when we take on more than we can handle . . . when we find it hard to ask for help . . . we also must listen to Jethro: "You can't do this alone; you need help."

When a task overwhelms us and our strategies fall short, we need the honesty and clarity to admit it. That requires a certain humility—a willingness to work with others rather than go it alone.

Wisdom sometimes lies in our ability to admit the obvious: "I need help." Sometimes self-truth is the only way to get the job done and preserve the health and wholeness God intends for us in our daily work.

The story of Jethro and Moses ends in Exodus 18:24:

"Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said."
Something to think about.
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