Don’t Handle It Alone

What you are doing is not good. 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. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you… You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Exodus 18:17-19

Many of us need a Jethro to tell us we’re doing too much—we probably already know that—but we need to learn to prioritize, delegate, and to say, “No, I can’t add another activity.” You may not recognize the name Jethro, but you surely know his famous son-in-law, Moses. Jethro came to Moses when he was in the wilderness near Mount Sinai and brought Moses’s wife and their two sons.

Moses told his father-in-law everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and how the Lord had saved them from many hardships along the way.

Jethro was delighted and said, “Praise be to the Lord. … Now I know that he is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” Jethro then made a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in God’s presence.” (Exodus 18:10-12 )

When Moses spent all the next day sitting as a judge for the people, Jethro asked, “What are you doing? Why do you alone judge, while all the people stand around from morning till evening?” (18:13-14 )

Moses told him they came to him to seek God’s will and to settle their disputes. Jethro told him he was doing too much. He and the people would wear themselves out. The work should be shared.

He told Moses his priority was to be the people’s representative before God, teaching them God’s decrees and instructions and showing them how to live. But Moses should also select capable men—”men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. You handle the difficult cases; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That’ll make your load lighter, as they share it with you. If God so commands, you’ll be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (18:20-23 ).

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned home (18:27).

Are you trying to do too much? Heed Jethro’s advice. Prioritize, delegate, say, “No, I can’t add another thing.” Ask God to help you find others who’ll share the load with you.

Dig Deeper

Read Exodus 2:11-21. How did Moses become Jethro’s son-in-law? Though he’d been highly educated in Egypt, what could Moses have learned from living with a priest and tending his sheep?

Read Exodus 18:1-6 and 27. We don’t know when Moses had sent his wife back home. Why do you think Jethro brought her back to Moses at this time? How would she be able to help him? Who can you help with their load?

How did the twelve apostles handle prioritizing and delegating as recorded in Acts 6:1-7? How can you use these methods to ease your load?

Nancy J. Baker

This devotion is part of our series Not-As-Famous Men and Women of the Bible.


  1. Thank you for a great lesson. Always can use a reminder to prioritize

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