Today we’ll continue our focus on real examples of stewardship, straight from the Scriptures.  Check out Part 1 and Part 2 here.

We’ve all felt at one point or another like we got the raw end of a deal.  Maybe we’re working hard, we’re doing our best, we’re serving people well, and then, inexplicably, we lose our job.  Or we’re blamed for something that wasn’t our fault.

Or maybe we’re sold into slavery by our family… Or thrown into prison for a crime we didn’t commit.  That happened to Joseph, anyway, as we see in the book of Genesis.  While he was still living at home, his other brothers sold him to slave traders that took him to Egypt, far from his home.  But because of his amazing stewardship over what was entrusted to him, he rose from the ranks of slaves to become the number two most powerful man in the world.  It didn’t happen all at once; it took a while to get there.

When Joseph was sold to slavery, a man named Potiphar purchased him to be a slave in his household.  Genesis 39:2 tells us, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did…”  Like any junior member of a staff, Joseph was likely tasked with small, unimportant jobs at first.  Though the jobs may have been small, Joseph exhibited good stewardship when he did them well.

Potiphar took notice of Joseph’s care for his responsibilities, and he soon made Joseph his personal assistant.  In fact, he put Joseph in charge of his entire household and everything he owned!  As Jesus told us, the person who was faithful with little was also faithful with much, and Potiphar prospered even more with Joseph in charge of his household.  We learn in verse 5 that “all his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished.”

How did Potiphar respond to Joseph’s continued care?  He gave Joseph “complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned.”  With Joseph in charge, verse 6 tells us that the only thing Potiphar had to worry about was what kind of food he wanted to eat.  Joseph was a prime, faithful steward!

Things weren’t all sunshine and roses, though.  Potiphar’s wife had the hots for Joseph, but he was having none of it.  She eventually lied about Joseph sexually assaulting her (never happened), so Potiphar, enraged, had Joseph thrown in jail.  It wasn’t a straight shot to the top of Egypt for Joseph.

But even in jail, Joseph’s stewardship helped him rise to the top, and he was eventually put in charge of all the other prisoners, including everything that happened in the prison!  Like Potiphar before him, the warden had no more worries because of Joseph (verses 22-23).

Through a series of events in chapters 40-41, Joseph has the chance to help Pharaoh discern the meaning of a dream.  God helps Joseph do this, and he’s freed from prison.  Because of his insight, Pharaoh wants Joseph to work for him, so he does for the next 15 years.  The dream that Joseph helped Pharaoh understand indicated that there would be seven years of good harvest, followed by seven years of famine, so Egypt needed to prepare for that.

Verses 47-49 tell us that during those first seven years, “Joseph gathered all the crops grown in Egypt and stored the grain… He piled up huge amounts of grain like sand on the seashore.  Finally, he stopped keeping records because there was too much to measure.”  With Joseph’s God-given foresight and proper management, Egypt was not only able to feed themselves but also the entire region during the famine that ensued.  Verse 57 says, “people came from all around to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.”

We learn 3 big things from Joseph’s experience.

1) Good stewardship is rewarded.  Potiphar saw it, the prison warden saw it, and Pharaoh saw it, and they all had the same reaction.  They saw Joseph, someone who cared well for whatever responsibilities he had, and they promoted him.  Reward and promotion is the natural reaction from anyone (God included) when someone exhibits good stewardship.

2) Success from stewardship isn’t a straight line.  Joseph didn’t go from slave straight to the top of Egypt.  In fact, he started out as a favored son, became a slave, got promoted to head of household for Potiphar, went to jail, became assistant to the warden, then, when the time was right, got the promotion of a lifetime to work for Pharaoh.  While stewardship is generally rewarded, it might not be universally recognized and praised from every single person.  Being a good steward doesn’t shield you from bad things happening, either.  “Don’t grow weary in well doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.”

3) Other people are depending on you to be a good steward.  They didn’t actually know it, but people from all over needed Joseph to come through for them.  There are people that need you to come through for them.  They might not know it; you might not know it.  But someone needs you to be a good steward of what’s entrusted to you.  Maybe it’s clear who and how, maybe not, but someone needs your good stewardship.

Joseph was an incredible example of stewardship.  What other great lessons can we learn from the life of Joseph?