Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 4, Lesson 11

Lesson Eleven

The "Joseph Principle"
of Stewardship

Texts: Genesis 37 and 39:1-6

When you die, what is the greatest tribute that could be paid to your life? If you could choose the one thing to be said honestly about the impact and significance of your life, what would you choose? If [after you die] you could choose what was to be said at your funeral, what one truth would you select to highlight the significance of your life?

Would you select one of the following statements? "He or she knew how to have fun." "He or she was the best ball player I ever knew." "He or she knew how to make money!" "He or she knew how to invest." "He or she knew how to save." "He or she was the most accomplished person in his or her organization [or area, or region, or field]." "He or she was the best administrator in that successful organization." "He or she succeeded in everything he or she attempted." "He or she was incredibly generous." "He or she was loyal, dependable, trustworthy, and knew how to keep confidences." "He or she was a person of character and integrity." "He or she was truthful even in life's most awkward moments." "He or she was the most knowledgeable person I ever knew." "He or she was the best teacher I ever knew." "He or she was genuinely spiritual." "He or she was the most considerate person I ever knew."

Several of those statements are an excellent tribute to a person's life [if made in honesty]. A number of those statements would honor any person's life. Most people would regard many of them as a worthy tribute to a well lived life.

For the man or woman who is God's person, the greatest sincere, honest tribute must in some way acknowledge he or she was God's servant and steward. To the person who belongs to God, the highest tribute acknowledges his or her life was useful to God's purposes.

Consider this statement: "God so obviously worked in him or her that he or she blessed every life he or she touched." We understand what it means for a successful athlete to have devoted followers. We understand what it means for an entertainment superstar to be an idol to his or her fans. We understand what it means for a charismatic politician to have a loyal constituency. We understand what it means for an influential authority figure to have unquestioning admirers.

Do you understand the meaning of this privilege? Have you known a man or woman who was a source of blessing to every person he or she was around? It was not that he or she was perfect. It was not what he or she materially "gave" others. It was not what he or she declared about his or her own importance and significance. It was not the respect or awe he or she "demanded." It was the person he or she was. The blessings came from his or her quiet kindness and consideration, not from powerful bravado. This person touched lives because of who and what he or she was. This person touched lives because he or she walked with God.

In good times, he or she was a blessing to others. In personal tragedy, or times of hardship, or times of distress, or times of success, he or she was a blessing to others. He or she did not have to try to be a blessing. He or she was a blessing. He or she was a blessing because he or she praised God, was guided by Christ, and did not resist the Holy Spirit. This person was a blessing just by living. Being a blessing to others did not depend on conditions, situations, or circumstances. This person drew life from God. Just living life made him or her a blessing to others. He or she blessed others because he or she was God's steward. Because of stewardship, blessings flowed from the person.

Read Genesis 37.   The "before"

  1. How old was Joseph (verse 2)?

  2. Describe and characterize Jacob's [Israel's; Genesis 35:10] feeling for Joseph (verse 3). Why did Jacob have those feelings?

  3. How did Jacob's feelings for Joseph affect the attitudes of Jacob's other sons (verse 4)?

  4. Read Genesis 37:5-11.

    1. What was the basic message of the dreams?

    2. How did his father react to the dreams?

    3. How did his brothers react to the dreams?

  5. Read Genesis 37:12-36 and briefly explain how the brothers took revenge on Joseph.

Read Genesis 39:1-6.   The "after"

  1. What happened to Joseph (verse 1)?

  2. What is said about the Lord's treatment of Joseph (verse 2)?

  3. What did Potiphar see (verse 3)?

  4. Describe Potiphar (the master) and Joseph's (the slave) relationship (verses 4-6)?

  5. Use your understanding of verse 3 to explain what happened.

Fix your focus firmly on what happened. Joseph was a spoiled brat who lived a privileged life made possible by the favoritism of his father. He made his grown brothers' lives miserable. He used his dreams and his position to irritate them. In jealousy, they finally captured him and sold him as a slave. The spoiled brat abruptly lost every privilege and became a slave who had no rights. What a transition!

Incredibly, the transition matured the teenager. He went from an arrogant, self-centered teenager to an industrious steward. He quickly became an honorable person of integrity. As a privileged teenager, he made his brothers' lives miserable. As a slave, he became a hard working, dependable, loyal servant. As the favorite son, he was useless. As a slave, he was trustworthy and dependable. As the privileged son, he took advantage of his father's favoritism. As a slave he used God's kindness to benefit others. That transition can be understood only if we see the distinction between a self-centered existence and an existence based on stewardship.

After his father's death, Joseph [the successful official in Egypt] said to his fear filled brothers: "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? ...You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result..." (Genesis 50:19,20). The Joseph principle of stewardship: in every situation and circumstance, let God work through you to bless others.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 4, Lesson 11

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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