January 29, 2016 • Life for Leaders
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’”
In the Life for Leaders devotion from a week ago, I brought up the subject of Joseph’s humility. Today I want to revisit that topic because it stands out so plainly in our passage from Genesis 41.
The example of Joseph invites us to take a look at our own humility. If you were in Joseph’s position, what might you have said to Pharaoh?”
First, let me set the context. As Joseph was trapped in prison because of false charges brought against him, Pharaoh had two distressing dreams. When none of his magicians and advisors could interpret these dreams, Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph, who had once rightly interpreted the cupbearer’s dream. So he told Pharaoh about Joseph. Immediately, Pharaoh sent for Joseph who was cleaned up and presented to his king. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (41:15).
Now, before we go on, think about what was happening here and to whom it was happening. This is Joseph, the one who as a young lad had dreams of dominating his brothers, even his own father. This is Joseph, who has an excellent track record when it comes to dream interpretation. And now, this very Joseph had his chance to impress the most powerful man in Egypt. This was his opportunity to show off, to prove his excellence, and, perhaps, to get out of prison. Joseph could do this without lying, by the way. He could say, rightly, “Yes, I did interpret the cupbearer’s dream. That is true.”
But that’s not what Joseph said. Rather, he answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (41:16). Joseph refused to take credit for his success at dream interpretation. He did not hold himself up as a man of unique wisdom and insight. Rather, he pointed to God.
I don’t know how this impresses you, but it strikes me as rather amazing, not to mention wonderful. The one who used to demonstrate such arrogance and ambition revealed profound humility. He was willing to risk losing out on his chance to impress Pharaoh and get out of jail by pointing to God, not himself, as the trustworthy source of dream interpretation.
The example of Joseph invites us to take a look at our own humility. If you were in Joseph’s position, what might you have said to Pharaoh? I’d encourage you to reflect prayerfully on the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of a time in your life when you could have taken credit for something but chose instead to give credit to others? Or, conversely, can you think of a time in your life when you took credit for something that you did not do, or, at least, did not do without help from others?
In your experience, does humility help or hurt in a competitive marketplace? Would humility help you advance in your career or would it hold you back?
Why do you think Joseph, once so full of himself, became humble?
Gracious God, first of all, thank you for the transformation we are seeing in Joseph. He has set aside the arrogance of his youth and chosen the way of humility.
Joseph’s example challenges me to look at myself. Am I humble, truly? Do I speak humbly? If I had been in Joseph’s shoes, would I have given you credit? Or would I have taken it for myself?
Help me, Lord, to be humble in heart, in mind, in actions, and in speech. Help me to see myself clearly and to give credit where credit is due, whether to my colleagues, my subordinates, or to you. Amen.
Image Credit: “Benjamin Cuyp Joseph interpreting dreams 1630-1652” by Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp – www.rijksmuseum.nl : Home : Info : Pic. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.