I shared these thoughts at a men’s retreat a few years ago, learning from the man whom God himself commended in superlative terms for his meekness, even though he was a great leader. In fact, it is his very meekness which contributed to Moses’ great leadership.
There are lessons here, then, for every leader — including in the home — so I hope these observations will be a blessing to all fathers and families:
Read: Exodus 18:5-11
Moses shows respect and affection to his father-in-law, and witnesses to him of the goodness of God. As a result, he has opportunity to influence his father-in-law for good, helping him to grow in his faith toward God.
Too often we miss opportunities to be a witness to our family or extended family because we let pride, defensiveness, or family tensions get in the way. If we have shown them our love and respect, then they will be much more likely to receive from us any witness concerning the goodness of God.
If we witness concerning the goodness of God, and not our own deeds or talents, then our humility before God and towards them will have a winning effect.
Have you respected your in-laws and extended family like you should? Have you shown the same love to them as your own parents and relations? When you speak to them, do you try to make yourself look good, or make God look good?
Read: Exodus 18:13-24
This is a remarkable scene, in several ways.
First, Moses is now leader of an entire nation and has been a great success as well. Yet, when his father-in-law criticizes his leadership, Moses is humble enough to receive his counsel and is improved by it!
Many of us would be more effective leaders, better husbands and fathers, if we were wise enough to seek out counsel and receive criticism. The language of how Moses receives his father-in-law’s instruction is similar to the meek language of how he obeys God: “This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did” (Exodus 40:16). This is a mark of servant-leadership, of truly meek leadership.
Moses is humble enough to receive counsel and is improved by it!
Second, the faults in his leadership were hurting, not only him, but those under him. This is true of every family leader. The things we are failing to consider, the areas where our weakness is showing through, is not only going to hurt ourselves, but those under us as well. When we are lazy, or selfish, or unorganized, or undisciplined, it makes it harder on our whole family to discover God’s will and to do it.
Finally, and just as important: although Moses adjusts his leadership according to godly and wise counsel—even of those closest to him and perhaps most likely to offend him—he is leading and he is teaching! “I make them know the statutes of God and his laws” (Exodus 18:16).
Delegating responsibilities is wise, but delegating your responsibility is wrong! When we are letting our wives, or in-laws, or others lead spiritually, taking a back seat, it hurts the whole family.
Delegating responsibilities is wise, but delegating your responsibility is wrong!
Jethro’s advice was wise precisely because it was to help Moses further this very goal, this responsibility. He opens with this counsel: “You shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do” (Exodus 18:20).
His counsel was not to stop doing what he was supposed to be doing, but to do it more effectively, more faithfully, and with more thoughtfulness about his own well-being and the well-being of those under his care.
Are you a meek enough leader to accept and implement criticism? Are there areas where your failings or unaddressed sins are hurting you and your family? On the other hand, are you taking the helm, leading your family, so that you can say like Moses: “I make them know the statutes of God,” and so it could be said of you that you show them the way to walk and the work they should do?