Summary: Moses, Pt. 7
FREEDOM TO WORK AND WORK IN FREEDOM (EXODUS 18)
Charles Schulz, the artist behind the comic strip Peanuts, in his book “I Take My Religion Seriously,” (p. 56) drew a strip of a boy wearing a long coat with pins and brooches cluttering the right side of the coat explaining his awards to an admirer staring in disbelief at his pins: “These are perfect attendance pins - Sunday School, Youth Fellowship, Youth leader training, men’s brotherhood, youth work night, men’s work night, youth missions, youth recreation, vacation school, Bible camp, youth Bible camp, city youth camp, country youth camp, state youth camp, international youth camp and choir practice.” Then he added, “I haven’t been home in three months!”
How often workaholics wish for 25 hours in a day or that they could manage with one less hour of sleep a day. Too often people are caught in the hustle and bustle of things, scrambling here and there morning till night, working so hard with so little to show.
Maybe you’ve heard yourself asking yourself these familiar questions: “Where did my time go?” “What have I accomplished today?” and “Why am I getting behind and not ahead as days go by?”
When Moses’ father-in-law, wife and children came to visit in the wilderness, they discovered Moses was in a management crisis. Why were free people forming an assembly line no different from slaves? How should the administration of the new government be different from the tyranny of Pharaoh? Something was practically wrong in the way he was managing his time, governing the people and handling his tasks.
What is the most effective use of our time then? How do people help themselves and others to manage their time better?
Engage Others and Eliminate the Exhaustion
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 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?” 15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 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.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 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. (Ex 18:13-19)
The fatigue that former Harvard University president Neil Rudenstine suffered when he was 59 in the mid-90s is a firm reminder of man’s limitations and frailties. For three years since he was the school’s president, he methodically raised a $1 million a day for a school that was already flushed with a $4 billion endowment, the largest of any private university in America.
Rudenstine was passionate about big and small things. Besides spending twelve hours a day on a demanding job, he fretted banquet menus, argued about his $10-15 medical co-payment and wrote notes to the football coach, Harvard Crimson editors, staff and dorm house masters.
One morning in November, he overslept, could not go to work and was diagnosed with “severe fatigue and exhaustion.” The directors insisted he took an indefinite leave of absence to recover from severe weariness from exertion. (Newsweek 3/6/95, U.S. News and World Report 12/12/94). The university president did not return, not for the next seven days or the next seven weeks, but the next seven months, until June the next year. He later revealed that he recuperated by listening to music, reading books and sunning in the Caribbean.
Moses’ crisis in his tenure came not long after he took the hot seat. It occurred before the Israelites’ arrival at Sinai in the third month after they left Egypt (19:1) – not even a quarter of a calendar year old. Organizing people was, doubtless, quite different from freeing them. Routine replaced drama. A fury in rescuing people was replaced by a fizzle in managing them. Things spun out of control very quickly, but the leader was the last person to recognize the signs of trouble.
The failure to engage others in service and ministry has disastrous consequences on the family, the group and the person. Moses could not shake himself off the job or the people that snaked around him from sunrise till sunset: “they stood around him from morning till evening” (18:13). He worked methodically and fixatedly like a single man on the job, but when his family arrived he had no time for them. His father-in-law brought his daughter and his grandkids but Moses could not even take an hour off to give them a guided tour of the area, to introduce them to others or to play with the kids.