Two Views of Blessings
by Jacob Hudgins
“The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man”(Gen 39:2).
We love a good success story. A young man in lowly circumstances lifts himself up by his own bootstraps and attains wealth and power. We can find many morals—the power of work ethic and positive thinking, the importance of choices—in such a story. Often we study the great leaders of history to learn their “secrets”—how did they achieve such a rise? The problem is that we wind up ruling out the only one who truly has any say in the whole process: God.
Joseph’s story is truly a success story. He moves from slavery to prison to Pharaoh’s court. Everyone is impressed with him. He works hard, and gains notoriety at every level. It is easy to look at this story and assume that he is just a remarkable, impressive man.
But the biblical text demands that we see more to the story. “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man”(Gen 39:2). Others see the presence of God too: “His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight an attended him”(Gen 39:3-4). The LORD blesses Potiphar as long as Joseph is with him. The keeper of the prison, also, has no concern about the prison under Joseph’s charge “because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed”(Gen 39:23).
This story illustrates two views of blessings. The worldly view looks at life as a closed system. Joseph succeeds because Joseph is hard-working, agreeable, and wise. There is no room for God; it is just a matter of Joseph “getting what is coming to him.” When we view our lives this way, we have a hard time thanking God for our blessings. We feel we have earned them, so why thank God? It is our own skill and effort that has gotten them.
The spiritual view looks at all of life as a gift from God. If I have success, it is because the LORD gives it to me. If others like me, it is because of the LORD. If I advance and achieve new levels of prosperity, it is a way the LORD blesses me. He can use my talents, opportunities, work ethic, and diligence to do it, but ultimately the glory is his, not mine.
So instead of considering whether we’ve achieved all our physical goals and successes, the question of importance for the Christ-follower is simple: have I given God glory for all the ways he is blessing me?