Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”Exodus 18:17-23 MSG
Isn’t it reassuring to know that Moses had problems with delegation too? When I am under stress and overwhelmed, my tendency is never to ask for help; instead, I take on more. “Thank you, I’m fine, I’ve got this, don’t worry, I can do it (better than anyone else),” etc. I am Queen of Failure-to-Delegate Land, and everyone around me are my Useless and Needy Subjects.
The Bible includes stories like this one to remind us of our humanness. Generation to generation, we are all so prone to all of the same failures and temptations, and yet God does not give up on us. God makes a way, has made a way for every single community under the sun to rely upon each other, help each other out, relieve each other’s burdens, and “have strength to carry out whatever God commands you.”
Not only that, but “the people in their settings will flourish too.” It isn’t good for one person to take on the world’s troubles by themselves. The “I Got This” attitude denies the Useless and Needy Subjects the opportunity to lean into their own gifts and talents. When the control freaks, like myself, take charge and refuse to share the load, it leaves others feeling useless and needy when they have so much more to contribute, if we only gave them the chance.
Paul, writer of many of the letters in the New Testament, must have taken notes from Moses’ father-in-law in the Old Testament when he penned his address about the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). We’re each given our gifts. One way we love each other is by encouraging and celebrating the gifts of others, working together as the body of Christ to make the world flourish.
I was thinking about this in regards to my own attempts to make the world a better place. Sometimes the burdens of the world are so great they press down on my shoulders and give me a tension headache. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, my pastor told me, “Sarah, you do not have to solve the COVID-19 crisis in our community all on your own. It isn’t your burden to bear.” Time and time again these words have surfaced again in my spirit, reminding me that I am only one appendage in the body of Christ.
The same is true for our efforts towards Creation Care. It is not just one person, one organization, one community, one nation’s job to care for Creation; it is all of our roles, each in our small ways contributing to the renewal and revitalization of the planet of which we are a part. In each of our small ways, “the people in their setting will flourish also.”
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” writes Paul in Galatians 6:9 (NIV), echoing Moses’ father-in-law and his practical advice for the Queens of Failure-to-Delegate Lands everywhere.
Points of Reflection
- Where in your life are you inclined to take on the burdens that aren’t yours to carry?
- How might the words of Moses’ father-in-law help you ease your own burden and empower you to love yourself and others better?
For the Kids
- Which do you prefer, to work with someone else on a project or to work on the project alone?
- What does Moses’ father-in-law have to say about sharing the work?
- What chores in your home would be easier if more than one person did them?
Sometimes it takes a father-in-law, or a father figure, or a person who is farther along on the journey to spy out the Failure-to-Delegate problem. Is there someone in your life who seems to be carrying too heavy of a burden right now? What words or actions might help them find a way out of the weeds so that they can rest? Ask God to reveal to you someone who is currently overwhelmed with the responsibilities of their lives, and pray for a way you can help relieve that burden.
Our Root & Vine Reflection for this month is Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, but another influential book of hers that I highly recommend is The Gifts of Imperfection. My need to control and my resistance to delegation is rooted in a desire for perfection… or at least the perception of perfection. Brown’s book frees us to consider what it looks like to live wholeheartedly. “Now more than ever, we all need to cultivate feelings of self-worth, as well as acceptance and love for ourselves. In a world where insults, criticisms, and fears are spread too generously alongside messages of unrealistic beauty, attainment, and expectation, we look for ways to “dig deep” and find truth and gratitude in our lives. A new way forward means we can’t hold on too tightly to our own self-defeating thoughts or the displaced pain in our world. Instead, we can embrace the imperfection.”
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.