3. Responsible and reliable
Joseph was a remarkable man. He had huge promises over his life from his childhood when he was given dreams about the way he would have authority over his brothers and how even his parents would bow down to him. Yet in Gen 39:19-23 he found himself in prison after being falsely accused of propositioning his master’s wife. This is hardly the outworking of the dreams he might have anticipated! Despite this, he did not allow circumstances to compromise his value system. He displayed great spiritual maturity despite everything seeming to go wrong. As a result he was entrusted with a high level of responsibility over other prisoners.
The qualities of responsibility and reliability have a lot in common but are also complementary. If a servant proves himself reliable it is likely he will be given responsibility. This echoes the injunction from Paul that deacons should be ‘tested first’ (I Tim 3:10). Why? So that they can demonstrate their reliability before being given responsibility.
One of the ways in which I serve in our church is to be on the welcome team at the front door. I love being there to welcome any visitors! This is often the shop window of the church. If people do not feel welcomed they may never visit again. One Sunday I was unable to fulfil my duty and asked someone to stand in for me. I was shocked to learn later that he had arrived nearly half an hour late. What should I do? He had kindly helped me out so it seemed unfair to criticise him. But as I thought about it I felt I owed it to him to speak to him about it and trust that God would give me the grace to do so. This was for his sake. He is a fine young man and if he is to grow and be given greater responsibility in due course he needs to know that reliability is important and that turning up late is unacceptable. My hope is that one day he will be able to look back and be grateful for being spoken to about this.
Someone with a servant heart will endeavour to be both reliable and to serve with a sense of responsibility, ‘owning’ the role he is being asked to fulfil. For Joseph, the jailer put everything in his charge so that ‘whatever was done there, he was responsible for it’ (Gen 39:22).
Typically a servant is seen as being there to carry out the master’s will; ‘do this’, ‘do that’. However, in this account of Joseph we read of an unusual commendation of a servant: ‘whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper’ (Gen 39:23).
In a normal employment situation employees are there for the benefit of the company ie to help make it prosper. But this would not be normal for someone who is employed as a servant who would have a more closely directed life, carrying out someone else’s will. But Joseph was exceptional. Why? ‘Because the Lord was with him’. A similar comment is recorded earlier in the same chapter: ‘The Lord was with Joseph so he became a successful man. Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand’ (Gen 39:2-3).
The attitude of a servant should be one of selflessness, recognising that his primary purpose is to benefit the master. Because the Lord is with us we should expect our service to produce great benefit for those we serve, too.