When Joseph was taken to Egypt … he was purchased by Potiphar, … captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did … so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned … The Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. —Génesis 39:1-5, NLT
In spite of his condition in slavery, Joseph never lost dominion over himself. His “owner” controlled his labor, but not his self. The name Joseph means “Prosperous” in Hebrew, and since his youth, Joseph knew his destiny would carry him to prosperity and success. Joseph was undeniably a slave, but in reality, he served God, not Potiphar. The work Potiphar obligated him to do, Joseph dedicated to the Lord, so God prospered him.
When slaves—or any other workers—permit circumstances to define their essence as a child of God, they lose their spiritual dignity. As long as we maintain our position in Heaven, no one can take us down to the ground.
This passage points out the source of Joseph’s success twice: God was with him.
The celebrated Mexican comedían Cantinflas, in one of his hilarious movies, once played the part of a peasant who ran for Congress. As he harangued the crowd, he said: “Here you have me in front of you and you in front of me and it is a truth that no one can deny.” In the life of Joseph, the truth that no one could deny was that the Lord was with him because he was with the Lord.
Your greatest success–as an inmigrant, worker, person–depends on your appropriation of that truth. If you bow your knee to God, God will lift you up. If you make yourself God’s slave, no other person or situation can master you. Furthermore, the Lord will bless your service and give you favor in the eyes of those you serve.
The famous singer Bob Dylan sang that we have no choice: whether we are the boss or the slave, we have to serve someone. No one knows that truth better than immigrants, many of whom work in the so-called “service industry.” Like any other person who works in the service of others, you may feel like a slave. The same thing applies in any kind of work. But when the people we serve realize that we are the source of their blessing, they will decide to serve us too, as Potifar did with Joseph, giving him increasing power, prestige, and influence as he continually promoted him.
In that kind of ironic situation, who is really the servant of whom?
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.