The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
When I think about Bible characters who took their faith to work, I think about Joseph. Sold to human traffickers by his jealous brothers, transported miles from his homeland into a strange country, auctioned off as a common slave to an Egyptian official, we might have expected Joseph to think he had been completely forsaken, abandoning all ties to his father’s God.
But even after being taken against his will to a foreign nation miles from family and friends, young Joseph remained strong in his ancestral faith. When introduced to his new role as slave, I wonder if Joseph was first assigned menial tasks to perform in his master’s household. Then, as each task was performed with excellence, as it became apparent this new slave had a unique set of aptitudes and people skills, Potiphar continued to increase his responsibilities. No doubt it helped that “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered” (Genesis 39:2). Potiphar himself observed “that the Lord was with him and . . . gave him success in everything he did” (v. 3). So the Egyptian official placed Joseph in charge of his entire household, trusting him with everything he owned. As a result, “the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (v. 5). God’s blessings on the worker spilled over into the workplace.
But, as is often the case, the more God blesses an endeavor the more Satan attempts to derail it. Potiphar’s wife began to desire the handsome young Hebrew. The more forceful she became with her illicit requests, the more firm Joseph stood in his resistance. She didn’t handle the rejection well. After one particularly embarrassing incident where she threw herself at the young house slave only to have him spurn her advances and run away, she falsely accused Joseph of trying to molest her in her own home. Apparently Potiphar wasn’t one to listen to both sides of a story. Or perhaps accusing a servant—even on trumped up charges—seemed better than acknowledging his wife’s unfaithfulness. So he had Joseph put into prison.
Again we might think Joseph would have reached his limit of endurance and patience, giving up on the Hebrew God he served. But he did not. I’d like to think Joseph handled himself—even in prison—with such grace, respect, and obedience that he caught the eye of the man in charge. In this situation too, “the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (v. 21). And “the Lord . . . gave him success in whatever he did” (v. 23).
There’s more to the story, but we’ll stop there. Joseph didn’t choose his workplace. In fact, it’s safe to say he would have preferred to live and work somewhere else. But even in a less-than-perfect work environment, he seems to have given his best to the tasks he was assigned. Long before the apostle Paul penned the words, Joseph exemplified the admonition, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Ephesians 6:7, 8).