“The priesthood of all believers did not make everyone into church workers; rather it turned every kind of work into a sacred calling.” -Gene E. Veith
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill
There’s a fascinating story in the book of Genesis, about a guy named Joseph. It’s the longest story in all of Genesis, and rightfully so. Joseph grows up in a house of brothers, but he’s his dad’s favorite. The brothers get jealous, and sell him into slavery (like you do) he winds up in prison because of false accusations and ultimately gets out because he knows how to interpret dreams.
This story is brilliant, filled with left turns and betrayal and redemption (and there is even a rainbow colored coat thrown in there somewhere…you know, just in case someone ever turned this into a Broadway musical).
But one of the best scenes comes when Joseph is first let out of prison. He’s spent the last several years of his life hanging out with people who actually deserved to be in jail. They’ve got tattoo’s and they smell like crime.
But finally, after a long list of tragic turns, Joseph gets called into see Pharaoh. The most powerful man in the country. Pharaoh has been having dreams lately, and he can’t find anyone who is able to interpret his dream. And here’s where Joseph catches his break. Pharaoh hears about some guy who can interpret dreams and calls him in.
So now he’s gone from wasting his life away in a cell to standing in the halls of power in just a few hours.
Now, before you hear what he does. Think about what you would do here.
Most of us would do or say just about anything to get out of jail. But not Joseph, even after all he’s been through.
Even after all he’s been through Joseph stands in front of Pharaoh and refuses to abuse his situation. When Pharaoh asks Joseph if he can interpret dreams, Joseph tells him no. Which is not the right answer, because that’s the exact reason he’s been called up there.
But more than that, he tells Pharaoh that only God can interpret dreams. And he’s standing in a room where everyone around him thought Pharaoh was god. Just a few verses earlier Pharaoh had beheaded a baker because he didn’t like his bread. And now here’s Joseph, this dirty prisoner is telling Pharaoh that he worships another God.
Here’s why this story matters so much.
The Test of Prosperity
I did jail ministry for years, and everybody finds God in jail. I mean that in a good way. When we suffer, when we hit rock bottom it seems like we are much more attuned to God.
But I’ve also had plenty of opportunity to rub shoulders who are very successful in their life/job. Guess which group is less likely to see God working in their life?
Sometimes the most dangerous place for the people of God is success.
But not Joseph. When Joseph’s moment comes he doesn’t act differently in the Palace than he did in the dungeon.
So I go to church with a couple named the Dalzell’s. They were some of the first people I met when we got to Highland, and they are some of my favorites. Joyce started and runs a non-profit in town called FaithWorks that serves the unemployed and underemployed of Abilene. It’s a ministry that teaches job skills, resume writing and helps connect people with internships that often leads to jobs.
And Dave, her husband, sells real-estate.
It’s obvious who does the “spiritual” work.
But it’s not obvious to Dave.
The other day I saw an area-wide realtor newsletter, Dave is the president of the West Texas Realtors this year, and so he was asked to write an op-ed piece to his fellow realtors. Dave could have written about anything, the fluctuating housing market, marketing tips, or the rise of social media. But he didn’t write about that.
The Extra Mile
Tina was a homeless woman who was struck and killed by a car last year. And Dave knew her, actually Dave knows a lot of people like her. Dave knows lots of people who have no homes, he is consistently introducing me to his homeless friends and trying to help them. Because after all, he is in the business of helping people find homes.
Look at what he says:
“Treat your neighbor as you want to be treated. It is my religion. It is also my business. I am a Realtor, I am in the business of helping others [make] an investment in a home of their own. That’s my business…But everyone of us lives to a higher calling than just the earning of our daily bread. We earn our living while struggling to… ‘do for others as we would want others to do for us.’ We go the extra mile,. We try a little harder for the rights of others.”
The whole article’s incredible. It was appropriate and professional, but also honest about how his faith makes his job more than just a way to make a living.
Dave sees this job as a way of serving the world.
Now here’s what I love about this, Dave is by all standards very successful. He’s made money and owns his own company, by all standards he is living the American Dream, but that’s not enough for Joyce and Dave.
They are some of the most driven passionate people that I know. Because they know that God didn’t give them success and prosperity for their own sake, but for the sake of the world. For them success isn’t a goal to reach, but a platform to serve from. So they go the extra mile.
Because they believe faith works, they take their faith to work.