February 19, 2020
by Steve Cartin, MDiv
“Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians…And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening…So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people…will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself’” (Exodus 18:9-18, NKJV).
The stories we tell. The reality we live. The two can often differ in unhealthy ways. Big meetings in ministry and in dentistry routinely sound like the account of Moses and Jethro, his father, found in Exodus 18. When Moses told Jethro all that was happening, all the blessings God was pouring out, Jethro rejoiced at the good fortune and progress Moses had been privileged to shepherd over in Israel. But when Jethro showed up the next day to watch Moses work, his story changed. Like most of us, Moses was eager to share all the great things God was doing around him. He was less transparent about the personal and corporate fallout that resulted from him micromanaging Israel from dawn to dusk.
God’s people in any profession can win the accolades of those who see them from afar or on the surface, while their lives become more and more disheveled every day. Yet, dentistry offers some of the best opportunities to observe what Jethro advised Moses to do: divide the labor. If Moses had been a dentist, Jethro would have asked, “Why in the world are you still packing cord?”
When I started out in the consulting field, Cathy Jameson, my mentor, reminded us again and again that “many hands make light work.” If it’s true that this is an old Chinese proverb, then the Chinese must have gotten it from Jethro. Cathy’s advice to dentists was to appropriately train and delegate all that could be delegated with the goal that other team members did with excellence everything the law did not require the dentist to do. Why pack cord when you can be prepping another crown in the next room? Why stay up late working on patient accounts when you could outsource that job and spend a few more hours with your wife and children?
Jethro’s sage advice was for Moses to delegate everything that could be done by anyone else. As a result, Moses was to do what he alone could do. Paul told Titus the same thing for tackling a bruising ministry on the island of Crete (Titus 1.5ff). We all need a Jethro from time to time. The account of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness tells us that Moses suffered from the “I-am-the-only-one” syndrome. First, he felt like he was doing it all. Second, he felt that if he didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. Third, he felt exhausted! We have far too big an opinion of ourselves when we insist on doing it all. We have far too little an opinion of others when we think they cannot or will not contribute. We have too poor an opinion of God when we feel that the best plan He could devise results in rundown bodies, tired minds and frayed emotions.
Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep” (NKJV).
You are the beloved! He wants you to rest, and not just rest on the Lord’s Day.
Are you setting about to do a great work? Then look around at the people God has placed around you and imagine what He can do with everyone doing their part. Will they do it 100 percent correctly from the start? No. But very few of them will ever do any of it until and unless you provide them with the training they need and subsequently commission them to be responsible.
Find yourself a Jethro. Everybody needs one. You need one—someone who will rejoice with you and give God the glory without thinking you are Him.