When family is good, it makes its point like no other source can. Here in Exodus 18, Jethro is a reminder from outside the details of Moses' day-to-day, of an adjustment that would be profitable for him to make.
What responsibility of leadership can wear a leader out more than an excessive bearing of a burden? This kind of "not good" (18:17) is not something that is a categorical moral issue, but it is a bona fide moral one.
Jethro says "if you do this thing and God commands you, then you will be able to stand" (18:23). To divide up work so that it is manageable is so garden-variety on the scale of moral issues that it doesn't receive its due: how many Nobel Prizes go to those who have slimmed down their areas of responsibility?
Yet a day doesn't get very far before such choices have to be made. This accomplishment is so garden-variety, that any plan, of any kind, even evil plans, must take it into account. The Lord said something about the nature of this aspect of moral life, the fitting of means to ends, many times over: sayings about avoiding the judge (Lk 12:58); sayings about being shrewd in relation to others (Lk 16:8), and the combination of shrewdness like serpents with innocence like doves (Mt 10:16). Luke 16:8 also wryly points out that "the sons of light" lag behind "the sons of this age" in acting shrewdly. Thus Moses got help from the outside.
There is some humor in the story when we read it with one eye closed. "In-laws!" In light of the dramatic acts of God, the miraculous aspect of life all around him -- "here comes my father-in-law...." How 'inappropriate' at such a time. But what are you gonna do? Wisdom is very hard to swallow, when you're in the world of the totally dramatic. It almost has to sneak in without an invitation.
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