By Dan King
After Moses had brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness, they encamped on the plains of Moab, with the promised land just on the other side of the Jordan river. There he rehearsed with them the exploits he had experienced with their parents and themselves through the years now past. In the course of this careful reconstruction of events, the tired old leader spoke of one particular memory he had, namely, of that time when he had despaired of the obligations of his office. He had informed the Israelites: “I am not able to bear you myself alone” (Deut. 1:9), and, “How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife.” The job was too great for him! Israel had come to be so large a nation that one man could never judge their problems and handle all their strifes by himself.
Great a man as Moses was, he knew his limits. This passage teaches many good lessons and sets forth a number of helpful principles which are not only represented here, but throughout the Word of God. All church workers today should consider these thoughts and apply them to their own situation. Now, if you are not a worker in the church (and you know whether you are or not), then you need to become one. God has no place in his kingdom for those who merely wish to sit back and watch – or worse than that – sit back and watch others work and then criticize them! The majority of the parables of the kingdom are “work situation parables,” that is, they describe people working in the fields or vineyards, fishing, investing, or engaged in some other productive enterprise. The obvious conclusion we are to draw from this is that God wants us to be “producers” too. When you become a worker, then you will appreciate the significance of the following points gleaned from Deuteronomy, chapter one.
1. The principle of human limitation. In vv. 9 and 12 Moses expressed his exasperation with the endless tasks before him. He could have worked himself completely “into the grave” and would never have been through. “I am not able. . . ” and “How can I. . . ” express the frustration he felt. Teachers, elders, deacons, preachers – all Christian workers – at times feel the same way. Some are working to make a living for their families, attempting to spend some time with their children and spouses, while contributing their spare time to the cause of Christ. In the face of these pressures, sometimes they are faced with the unrealistic expectations of others. Do not feel that you are alone, Moses felt the same way.
2. The principle of multiplying workers. Moses told the people to find among themselves men of ability and wisdom which he would appoint over the tribes: “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you” (v. 13). This inspired man knew that, to get more work done, you must have more workers. Concentrating the efforts of the same few will not increase the output of a congregation today to any large extent. What the church needs is more people who are not already involved in the work to “pitch in. ” Why did Jesus choose twelve men as his apostles? Why did he send out the seventy? Why did he appear to “above five hundred”? Because one man could not do it alone. Jesus was not sent to do all of God’s work, but to prepare workers and get the work started. When he had accomplished that, he was ready to go back to his Father. The Lord said: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest” (Lk. 10:2); and, in another place: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal” (Jn. 4:35-36).
3. The principle of shared responsibility. The judges were charged by Moses to hear the cases between brethren, and only to bring the case to Moses if it were too hard for them to settle (vv. 16-17). Moses was not so jealous of his position that he was unwilling to “delegate responsibility.” No successful person can be. Often church workers are so anxious to guard a job for themselves that they refuse to train others to take their place when they are gone or are out of town. This can be the product of petty jealousy, and ought never to rear its ugly head in the kingdom of God. The result can be an almost permanent hardship for the church in the event they move, have extended sickness, or are taken from us by death. Learn to share responsibility. This is God’s way. Paul told Timothy to train others to take his place, even as Paul himself had trained Timothy (2 Tim. 2:2).
4. The principle of ultimate accountability to God. “Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s” (v. 17). Those of us who are doing little for the work of Christ, save showing up occasionally at the worship services, had better know that someday we must all give account to God (2 Cor. 5:10). “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). So said God about the judgment. Those of us who are not producing anything toward the cause of Christ, save concern on the part of faithful and vigilant workers, need to awake to what the judgment will be about. It will be “according to our works,” as per this and other scriptures.
Apply these divine principles to your labor in the kingdom of heaven. They will make of you a more fruitful worker, and the overall effect will be the growth of the church and a greater volume of work done.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 13, p. 396
July 2, 1992