Summary: Faithful disciples are called to participate in the civic process through elections. How do faithful disciples know who to vote for when election time comes? This sermon offers practical advice in choosing leaders wisely.
Election day, Tuesday, November 8th, is only fifty-seven days away. We’ll elect a new President of the United States, as well as U. S. Congressmen, Senators and a host of other offices in our states and communities. One of the blessings of living in the U.S. is we get to choose who leads us every four years, or two years, or six years for some offices. It behooves us to pay attention and do our due diligence in choosing those leaders because they will set the direction of our nation for the next four years, and direction matters. In the case of the next President of the United States, there is one vacant seat on the U. S. Supreme Court that he/she will fill, and the likely hood of as many of three more vacancies just in the next term. Those selections will influence the nation for the next generation.
We talk of faith and politics and our minds naturally turn to our political landscape. Ours is a most unique situation in world governance, and for that we are most grateful. But politics goes well beyond the civil government in which we live. Anywhere there are people involved, it involves politics—school, work, civic organizations, church. Church? Yes! You didn’t know there were politics in church? Politics surround us, and leaders surround us. Choosing leaders wisely is necessary in every realm of life, and the purpose of today’s message is to help us discover ways to choose those leaders wisely.
Another preface is also needed. With few exceptions, we’re all leaders. We lead our business, we lead our class, we lead our church, we lead in some level of civic organization, we lead our sports team, we lead a Sunday school class, we lead our family. As we explore the advice Jethro gave to his son-in-law, Moses, let’s listen to the characteristics and measure, not just those we are choosing to lead us in the civic realm or church realm, but also whether we are living into these traits ourselves as we lead in whatever realm we lead. It’s important because, as leadership guru John Maxwell says, everything rises or falls on leadership. It might be especially true this election cycle. The traits I note from Jethro’s advice are: humility, capability, responsibility and accountability.
As I read through Exodus 18: 13 – 27, I see four traits of strong, godly leadership as Jethro counsels Moses in his leadership of the nation of Israel. To set the context of Jethro’s conversation, it’s been just over a month since Moses led the people out of Egyptian bondage and Pharaoh’s oppression. In that time, they’ve seen God deliver them through the Red Sea, provide water from a rock and God is feeding them daily with manna and quail. They’ve also just won a military victory over a people group called the Amalekites. Jethro gets word of all God has done for Moses and the people, so he takes Moses’ wife and two sons, loads up and prepares to take them back to Moses. At some point before going down to Egypt, Moses had sent them to live with Jethro while he went off to do God’s work. Jethro arrives, they catch up on all the events since they were last together and had a party and a worship service to celebrate. The next day, Moses goes out to do what he always does…hear the complaints of the people against each other…he sits in judgment, day after day, deciding all the petty (and not-so-petty) complaints of over 600,000 men, not including women and children.
Jethro immediately notices a problem. More particularly, Jethro says, “Why are you trying to do this alone?” Jethro, in asking Moses the question, is trying to give Moses a lesson in humility. Humility is perhaps the greatest quality to look for in a leader. The original Hebrew spoken by Jethro leaves the impression that he sees Moses acting like a King over the people. Moses considers himself uniquely qualified to judge the people and their issues, almost like he’s God’s partner in this deal. That’s the strength of the language in the text. Jethro says, “That’s not good!” Basically, he’s saying, “Get over yourself, Moses. You’re killing yourself and you’re killing the people trying to do this alone.” It was a matter of respect. The whole tone of the conversation indicates that Moses’ ego was getting in the way of what is best for the people and for himself.
Leadership is not a Lone Ranger endeavor. Egotistical leadership is devastating to any organization. Granted, it takes a pretty large ego for someone to run for President, or any other office, for that matter, but ego that is not tempered with humility is egomaniacal, and is ultimately destructive.
There is a fantastic visual image contained in this entire episode, and it has to do with humility, and the power of humility. The encounter begins with Moses sitting to judge the people, and the narrative indicates he’s sitting because he’s worn out. Jethro offers his advice and says, “If you do this, you’ll be able to “stand up” under the pressure.” It’s Jethro’s way of saying, “If you humble yourself and relinquish some leadership, you’ll really find yourself standing over the people instead of the people standing over you.” That’s exactly what Jesus said, too. One day, his disciples were discussing who would be greatest among them. When they arrived at the house, Jesus asked what they were discussing, though he already knew. They didn’t answer him, but he sat them down and said “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Servant leadership is a Kingdom principle. It’s driven by humility.