Should You Invest in Someone Else’s Success? (Genesis 40) - God’s Word for Work, Online Video Bible StudySmall Group Study / Produced by TOW Project
Should You Invest in Someone Else's Success? (Genesis 40)
1. Leader gathers the group in an online meeting.
2. Leader shares screen and audio.
3. Leader plays video. The video includes:
- Introduction to God's Word for Work
- Opening prayer
- Bible reading: Genesis 40
- 1 minute for quiet reflection
- Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: Joseph’s Interpretation of Dreams in Prison
4. Leader pauses the video and the group discusses the readings.
5. Leader resumes the video with the closing prayer.
God, we invite you to speak to us through the Bible today. Show us what your word means for our work. Amen.
Bible reading: Genesis 40
It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while.
Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?”
And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”
So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.”
Then the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “Behold, in my dream a vine was before me, and in the vine were three branches; it was as though it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. Then Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”
And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler. But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”
When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, “I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.”
So Joseph answered and said, “This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”
Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: Joseph’s Interpretation of Dreams in Prison
Joseph’s service in prison was marked by the Lord’s presence, the jailer’s favor, and Joseph’s promotion to leadership. In prison, Joseph met two of Pharaoh’s officials who were incarcerated, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Many Egyptian texts mention the role of cupbearers, who not only tasted wine for quality and to detect poisons but also who enjoyed proximity to those with political power. They often became confidants who were valued for their counsel (as in Nehemiah 2:1-4.) Like chief cupbearers, chief bakers were also trusted officials who had open access to the highest persons in the government and who may have performed duties that extended beyond the preparation of food. In prison, Joseph did the work of interpreting dreams for these politically connected individuals.
Interpreting dreams in the ancient world was a sophisticated profession involving technical dream books that listed elements of dreams and their meanings. Records of the veracity of past dreams and their interpretations provided empirical evidence to support the interpreter’s predictions. Joseph, however, was not schooled in this tradition and credited God with providing the interpretations that eventually proved true. In this case, the cupbearer was restored to his former post, where he promptly forgot about Joseph.
The dynamics present in this story are still present today. We may invest in the success of another who rises beyond our reach, only to be discarded when our usefulness has been spent. Does this mean that our work has been for nothing and that we would have been better off to focus on our own position and promotion? What’s more, Joseph had no way of independently verifying the stories of the two officials in prison. “The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines” (Proverbs 18:17). After sentencing, however, any prisoner can assert his or her own innocence.
We may have doubts about how our investment in others may eventually benefit us or our organizations. We may wonder about the character and motives of the people we help. We may disapprove of what they do afterward and how that might reflect on us. These matters can be varied and complex. They call for prayer and discernment, but must they paralyze us? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all” (Galatians 6:10). If we start with a commitment to work for God above all others, then it is easier to move ahead, believing what is written in Romans 8:28: “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
- How does what you heard apply to your work?
God, thank you for being present with us today. Please stay with us in our work, wherever we go. Amen.