No Reason to Be Jealous of Eldad and Medad!
One of my greatest joys in ministry is helping God’s people discover their spiritual gifts and give them opportunities to grow these gifts in the local church and beyond. In my context, Women’s Ministry (i.e., Small Groups), there are many ways in which women can do this whether it’s hospitality in hosting a Small Group or greeting at the door, administrative tasks, giving, shepherding a team, or serving at a kiosk, etc. None of these ever seem to be a threat to me as a pastor. But, do I dare put another woman on the platform to teach? Do I dare put a man on the platform? You bet I do! What if she/he is better than I am? Perhaps they can grow me. The greatest joy ever for me is to witness a sister or a brother step onto a platform who is gifted and simply needs to begin to grow their gift of teaching.
I’ll never forget a story a dear friend shared with me a few years back. As an incredibly gifted preacher, bred from insecurity no doubt, he chose to fill the pulpit with a less gifted orator whenever he had to leave town. I was stunned at this admission because of the philosophy of ministry he now holds in raising others up. He laughs at those days of insecurity now and shared his story with me to warn me as a leader never to hold anyone back in the gifting God had given them. I thank God he gave me this counsel.
In the eleventh chapter of Numbers in the Bible, we’re enlightened with a similar situation of which I will give context first. The people of Israel are whining to Moses about not having their meat to eat. Moses appears to be close to ministry burnout and who can blame him. He is finally so overwhelmed he asks God to kill him if the expectation is to continue carrying such a heavy burden (Numbers 11:15). He states a fact: “I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is too heavy (Numbers 11:15)!” Can anyone relate to Moses? I sure can. As an answer, God puts his Spirit on 70 men recognized as leaders to help carry the burden of the people.
“Two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed behind in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but they had not gone out to the Tabernacle. Yet the Spirit rested upon them as well, so they prophesied there in the camp. A young man ran and reported to Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!’ Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ assistant since his youth, protested, ‘Moses, my master, make them stop (Numbers 11:26-28)!'” Seems like in this passage Joshua could be characterized as a tattletale, whistle-blowing informant; or, did he rewrite or add onto his job description? I wonder what his relationship with Eldad and Medad was like before or after he blew the whistle.
“But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all (Numbers 11:29)!'” I love Moses’ response. He gives Joshua the benefit of the doubt in assuming his assistant was protecting him. In the same breath Moses assures Joshua this is not his philosophy of leadership. We learn in Scripture Moses’ wish eventually became a prophesy: “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29). For more reading on this, go to http://claudemariottini.com/2013/11/19/prophecy-and-the-spirit-of-god/
Obviously one of the weaknesses of the church is when sin creeps around in the form of jealousy. It robs the Kingdom of God through the back door of insecurity. I’ve been guilty. Perhaps many of us have. About 13 years ago, I had to ask forgiveness from a colleague for this very thing. I believe when we are insecure as leaders to the point of holding people back in their gifting, we lose influence over them or we simply begin to experience ministry burnout trying to do it all ourselves. The result is devastating! What can I learn from this?
1) It’s okay to ask God for help. Moses had a limit. I need to know when I’ve reached mine.
2) I can’t assume my way is the only way. Just because Eldad and Medad stayed in the camp instead of going out to the Tabernacle didn’t mean they were supposed to suppress their gifts.
2) Celebrate the body of Christ by allowing those God has placed by my side to help! Moses was thrilled at the thought that others would be gifted in such a way to prophesy.
3) Examine my heart on whether I am more like Joshua or Moses in this context. Do I use the motive of protection as a cover for jealousy or insecurity? Do I completely understand my role in guarding the Kingdom of God or have I added something in the job description that is not biblical? Do I have a heart that desires for others to have the same gifts I have? Do I hold others back or spring them forward in their gifting?
Oh God, thank you for using the Eldads and the Medads, the Joshuas and the Moses’ to speak to our hearts. Thank you for your powerful Word. In Jesus name. Amen!