Monday, February 27, 2023

When Moses Killed a Resurrected Fly

Suggested Reading: Exodus 18:9-26 (or read the whole story here)

When I was in college, I was part of a drama ministry group that did a skit called "The Fly Skit." It started off with a guy on stage who is minding his own business, reading a magazine, when a fly starts buzzing around and annoying him. After swatting the fly away several times, he reaches out in anger and catches the fly in his hand. Amazed by his luck, he shakes his hand and can hear the fly buzzing inside. Quickly, he is joined on stage by another person who suggests they play catch with the fly. They proceed to throw the fly back and forth between each other, accompanied with the appropriate buzzing as the fly travels from one person's hand to the other's until, finally, having been thrown around so much, the fly ends up on the ground, seemingly dead. In desperation, the two begin applying CPR to the dead fly and manage to bring him back to life. They begin jumping around and celebrating and then, these two people who have been so good with the fly that they could toss it back and forth, catching it without any difficulty at all, high five each other. As their hands meet, the buzzing of the newly resurrected fly abruptly stops. These expert fly handlers accidentally kill their beloved fly. (Add the tagline, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," and you have yourself a nice ice-breaker skit for Christian venues.)

In Exodus 18, we have an interesting account where Moses' father-in-law, Jethro travels into the wilderness to visit Moses and bring Moses' wife and children to him. When Jethro arrives, he hears all about the incredible miracles God has done through Moses. He hears about the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh's army at God's hands, all through Moses. Jethro is duly impressed by all of this news and  praises God for all that has occurred. But the next day, Moses sits down to judge the people, who have formed a line so long that many of them wait from morning until evening to have their cases heard. Suddenly, Jethro, this man who was so impressed with all of the things Moses had done in freeing the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, becomes critical of Moses and says. "What you are doing is not good. You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because this task is too heavy for you. You can't do it alone" (Exodus 18:17-18, HCSB). Jethro then suggests a plan that will help Moses accomplish the task without wearing out both himself and the people.

Sometimes, when we are flush with the success of some major venture, we can easily begin to think that we have it all together, or that we are successful at other unrelated things as well. Having led a successful business, we think we are experts on management. Having succeeded in an acting career, we think we are experts at politics. Having successfully started a camp fire we begin thinking we know everything about pyrotechnics. And inevitably, reality hits us in the face in a way that reminds us that being successful in one or more areas doesn't mean we know everything. For Moses, that day was the day his father-in-law came to visit and saw him judging the people's cases in a very counterproductive way and called him out.

In that moment, when someone calls us on our bad strategy, our hubris, or simply the overestimation of our own skills, we have a choice to make. We can, like some people, insist that we know what we are doing and continue to bluff our way through until we end up in total failure; we can realize the truth of the warning but refuse to change because our pride refuses to let us back down; or we can choose to accept good council and change our approach like Moses, who "listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said" (Exodus 18:24, HCSB). We have the ability to recognize that good advice can come from unexpected places and that we are never so big and knowledgeable that we will never make mistakes.

When you accidentally kill the fly you have just resurrected, when your moment of success is quickly followed by a false-step, how will you react? Will your pride keep you from changing course? Will you decide that you don't have to listen to someone who doesn't have as much experience as you? Or will you demonstrate wisdom by following the sensible course, no matter who happens to present it? The fact that you've succeeded doesn't mean you can't also fail.

Getting Lost in Discussion

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