“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. — Exodus 18:17-20
What do you picture when you picture a mentor?
Most people picture someone with a couple of decades of experience and success that calls you into their spacious corner office for a chat over some tea and scones. After exchanging some pleasantries, the person asks me about my “passions” and where we see ourselves in ten years. Certainly, the mentor experience can be like that. But just as often, very good advice can come from peers, or someone you meet while riding on the bus. Sometimes, sage advice can come from a very unlikely source. The Bible has a relatively unknown story of a father-in-law who made a suggestion that made a difference.
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, learned of the miraculous rescue of Moses and the Israelites so he traveled to their camp. While he was visiting, he observed Moses sitting on the judgment seat deciding on disputes between the people. It was a very important responsibility. And who better to do it than their leader, Moses? It seemed the right thing to do, but was it? Jethro told Moses that what he was doing was not right. He told Moses that he couldn’t be the judge of the land and be their leader at the same time. Moses’ call was to be the people’s representative before God and the messenger from God to the people. Exodus 18:13-27 describes Jethro’s wise suggestion for Moses to delegate this responsibility to others..
Jethro said to Moses, “If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” (Exodus 18:23). Jethro offered his wisdom to Moses in love. He wanted to help Moses avoid the burnout of trying to do all the leadership himself. Moses, thankfully, had a teachable spirit. He could have ignored his father-in-law’s wisdom and continued down the path toward exhaustion, but Moses chose instead to follow Jethro’s advice. He could have received this as criticism of his work, but instead Moses heard it as a gift from a mentor.
Sometimes we become irritated when people offer unsolicited advice. “Who are they to tell me what to do?” But God calls us to care about the people around us. Sometimes caring means sharing our wisdom, and other times it means being willing to be taught. We can benefit from the wisdom of others, even when it comes from the most unlikely source.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from someone? How did it impact you?
- How sustainable is the pace you’re living? Would a wise, loving advisor say, “This is not good” to you? Speaking of advisors, who is yours? Do you have someone in your life that plays the role of a Jethro?