When the Inmates Carry the Message

When the Inmates Carry the Message

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Exodus 18:17

As you likely know, my buddy Jon and I do a weekly Bible study with the inmates at our local jail, where one of us always presents a Bible passage and a discussion topic. It’s informal, but each week, one of us prepares some message. Lately though, we’ve had a couple of inmates who’ve been willing to share in that responsibility. It’s been fantastic to have them prepare and deliver the lesson. It’s good for them because it requires them to put some effort in, taking responsibility for their faith. It’s also good for us, because we can always learn from a different perspective and, it’s a relief to share the labor.

In the past, we’ve always simply assumed that, as the non-incarcerated, we must enlighten the inmates. It was unintentional, but also somewhat arrogant of us to do everything, insisting that the inmates passively consume whatever we offer. Some of them can and should be required to help in the work. Jon and I must maintain some control. There are clearly guys who aren’t ready for this responsibility, and so, we still manage the group, but now we’ve delegated the labor to those who’re capable, and the group is stronger for it.

This is the lesson of today’s passage. In it, Moses was visited by Jethro, his father-in-law, who observed Moses’ interaction with his people. As the Israelite’s leader, Moses sat alone in judgment of all their disputes, from sunrise to sunset. When Jethro saw this, he stepped in and offered Moses some much-needed advice. You’re going to burn yourself out. This isn’t good for anyone. You can’t possibly carry this burden by yourself. For the good of all, you must delegate responsibility to others. Don’t just be a leader. Create other leaders (my paraphrase).

When granted leadership, many of us naturally assume responsibility, believing we must do everything on our own. We lead, expecting that everyone else follows. According to today’s passage though, a good leader doesn’t do everything. Rather, a good leader creates other leaders, delegating responsibility. Though our intentions may be good, it’s somewhat arrogant of us to assume that we must do everything alone. This isn’t good for us or for those around us. For the good of all, we must learn to identify those who’re capable and employ the humility and wisdom to delegate responsibility to them. This is good for others and it’s good for us. No one is meant to do everything themselves.

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