5-Minute Bible Studies

TOLERANCE-A Five-Minute Study

Faith Committee, Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky


Contributed by Trudy Pettibone
Bible Teacher, Cincinnati, Ohio

January 28, 2002

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE – MOSES Exodus 12:38,14:10-12,15:23-24,16:2-3,17:1-2,32:19-20

Few biblical leaders had to exercise tolerance to the extent that Moses did. He was assigned the task of bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. In the process of doing that, God’s power was exhibited through ten plagues that struck Egypt and its people. Whether people were impressed by this display of power, or just not willing to remain in Egypt, we are told that a “mixed multitude” went up out of Egypt, along with the six hundred thousand Israelite men. We are not given a clue as to the nationalities of these people, but it is certain they were not followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses had to tolerate the people of God, as well as the people unfamiliar with the God of Israel. We must remember that even the Israelites were not all that familiar with the God of Israel, and Moses knew this. They had lived in the land of Egypt for 430 years. We are not told that they had any prophets or priests among them to instruct them in the ways of God. They were probably well assimilated into Egyptian culture and religion. They may have heard of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their ancestors, but who was this new God who displayed such power and expected their obedience? Moses understood that the people were going to have to learn many new ways, and this helped him be a little more tolerant.

When we are told of the people complaining, the sons of Israel are named specifically, but the foreigners are not mentioned. We might assume that a reference to “the people” would include the foreigners. Even when Moses is delayed in coming down from Mt. Sinai, we are not told that it is the foreigners that urge the creation of the golden calf, only “the people.” Whoever it was, up until this obvious breach of trust with God, Moses is able to bear with them, and even defends them when God is ready to strike them down. Then, when Moses sees the golden calf, his anger gets the best of him, and he reacts against the people that he has previously tolerated. He recovers quickly, and we see him on the next day offering himself as a substitute for the people’s sin.

God chose well when he chose Moses for this difficult assignment. Moses was able to work with a large number of people and realize that they were all at different levels in their growth. He knew that they, himself included, were all in a very unusual learning situation. Moses was determined to help these stubborn people learn about the God of Israel, as he had had to learn. He had the strength to stand for God, and not go along with what the people wanted, when it was wrong, even though his firmness brought the people’s wrath upon him. Moses likely realized that, in the people’s shoes, he would have many of the same responses. God blessed Moses for his tolerance. Even though God sometimes wanted to act differently, God honored Moses’ requests for the people, which made the lives of the people more tolerable.


Some practical evidences of tolerance we can see in our lives today are seen in the following “I Will” statements:

I will listen before I form an opinion.
I will look for ways to help others mature.
I will not confuse what is right with what is popular.
I will expect the same of myself as I expect of others.
I will accept my own unchangeables and the unchangeables of others.

Divide into pairs and discuss:

  • Is there a particular group of people that you have difficulty tolerating?
  • Why do you think it is hard for you to tolerate this group?
  • How can you try to be more understanding of this group?


Spend a few moments in personal reflection:

  • Ask God to show you one individual in your life in which He and you are displeased with your intolerance, and one measurable step you can take this week to overcome this intolerance.
  • Share your action step with a trusted friend and ask the friend to hold you accountable to take that step this week.



This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.