Reflections on Success: Part 4 – Success and Humility

By Mark D. Roberts

July 26, 2018

The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hands.

Genesis 39:2-3


Today, we continue our reflections on success as seen in Genesis 39:1-6. In this passage, Joseph is identified as “a successful man” (39:2). When his master, Potiphar, saw Joseph’s accomplishments, he promoted Joseph to the position of overseer of his household (39:5). Under Joseph’s management, the household flourished.

A woman with eyes closed and hands folded.Verse 3 reveals something more about Potiphar’s thoughts concerning Joseph. This verse says, “His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hands.” I wonder how Potiphar knew that the Lord was with Joseph, causing him to prosper. Potiphar would have acknowledged the gods of Egypt, not the one God who had made himself known to Israel. So, how did he know that the Lord was with and was blessing Joseph?

Genesis 39 doesn’t answer this question directly. But we find several clues from later in Genesis. Many times and in various contexts, Joseph mentions God. For example, when Potiphar’s wife tried to lure Joseph into a sexual encounter, Joseph asked, “How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (39:9). Or, when Pharaoh told Joseph to interpret his dream, Joseph answered, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (41:16). Thus, it’s highly likely that Potiphar knew the source of Joseph’s success because Joseph had told him about the Lord.

As I reflect on this aspect of the story, I’m impressed by two things. First, I wonder whether I live and speak in such a way that people would see my success as a result of God’s grace. I don’t want to be one of those people who put people off with excessive “God talk.” But I do want to bear faithful, wise, and consistent witness to the God who is the source of all good things in my life—not to mention in the whole world.

Second, I’m impressed by what seems to be Joseph’s growth in humility. The early Joseph, the dreamer who boasted about his own greatness and glory (37:5-11), has become a more mature and humble man, one who refuses to take credit for that which comes from God. We can easily imagine the early Joseph standing before Pharaoh and saying, “Yes, I am a wise interpreter of dreams.” But the latter Joseph, one who has been humbled through suffering, points to God’s greatness rather than his own. He does not claim his success as his own, but rather sees it as a gift from the Lord.

Something to Think About:

As you think about Joseph’s acknowledgement of God, what comes to mind? What thoughts? What feelings?

How can we give credit to God in a way that is not off-putting to others, especially to those who do not share our faith?

What helps you to grow in humility?


Gracious God, thank you for the example of Joseph. I’m struck by what is implied in this story and seen clearly later. Joseph bore faithful witness to you, even when he might have been tempted to take credit for things you had done. Yet, Joseph had become a humble man through the difficulties of his life—not to mention your consistent presence with him.

Help me, dear Lord, to be like Joseph. May I live and speak in such a way that people see the success of my life as evidence of your presence and power. May I be humble in heart before you and others, even as I lead with courage that you provide. Amen.

This post was originally published on January 21, 2016.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

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,...

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