Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2007
Scripture: Heb. 11:24, 25, Ex. 2-4, 18:1-27, Num. 12:1-4
Having troubles with your in-laws? Did you know you can go online and receive advice from a woman known as, “Miss Manners?” People write to her and she offers advice on their relationship problems. This week her column has a question dealing with in-laws. 1
A distraught woman wrote in because of problems with both her husband’s parents and his two sisters. She’d been snubbed by them because of marital problems the couple had in the past. Even though they’d worked through their issues and are now expecting their first child, all has remained silent on the in-law front. Not even a call or card of congratulations.
While Miss Manners can give sound advice at times, as Christians we can go to God and the Bible for answers to our dilemmas. As this week’s lesson teaches, Moses’ father-in-law treated him more like a son than an in-law. Jethro invited him to dinner but gave him much more than food. He took him in as family, gave him Zipporah in marriage, offered him a job herding sheep, and shared his home for forty years.
Years later, when God called Moses back to Egypt, he had enough respect for his father-in-law to ask him to let him go. Jethro answered with a supportive, “Go, and I wish you well” (Ex. 4:18). They’d built a forty-year relationship on trust. Even while Moses was with the Israelites in the wilderness, Jethro showed his support by visiting him and offering wise fatherly counsel.
Sadly, Moses’ family didn’t treat their sister-in-law with the same care and respect. Instead of making her a part of the family, they not only turned on her but also on their own brother for marrying her. God showed great displeasure in this, and Miriam suffered the punishment for her sin for seven days—being confined outside the camp with leprosy. You’d think that after all the mighty miracles they’d seen, Zipporah’s in-laws would have been examples of Godly people, and therefore welcomed her as family.
Married couples have always had in-law problems. Such problems have provided fodder for many in-law jokes. Maybe the problem is with the word “in-law.” Maybe if we didn’t call them in-laws, but simply “family,” couples would see their marriage as a joining of two families.
That’s what Jethro did, and we can learn from him: he accepted Moses and warmly invited him into his home; he provided him with work; he gave him his blessing when Moses felt called from leading sheep to leading God’s people; and he continued caring for him, offering support when needed.
As Christians, there should never be a “his family” verses “her family” battle. Parents and their adult children should come together as “our family.” After all, that’s how God sees us—as one big family. ~ nc