Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.’
Joseph, son of Jacob, was given an amazing spiritual gift. Not only was he sent dreams to help him understand the future, but he was also given the vital skill to interpret those dreams. At the beginning of his story, taking pleasure in this gift seemed to be at the forefront of Joseph’s thinking. He couldn’t wait to tell his brothers and father about his future in leadership, though he did rather lack the capacity to read the room!
But his rise to leadership followed intense suffering, being thrown into a cistern by his brothers and unjustly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. And, whilst it did begin with a calling and a gift, his leadership required hands-on tasks and hard work. Having interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he undertook the huge administrative task of storing up grain during the seven years of abundance to prepare for the seven years of famine. In doing so, he saved many lives. He saved his family, who’d mistreated him, and the people of another country, who’d treated him as a foreigner without rights.
Joseph was called to leadership founded on generosity of spirit, and on humility. His path to leadership was far from easy. So, too, was the reality of the job God had called him to do – this was Joseph’s challenging frontline.
Whether we exercise leadership in the church, in a secular workplace, or some other setting, we’re called to use every gift we’ve been given to serve, as Jesus reminded us (John 13:12–17). Leadership should always involve finding ways to make sure we don’t lose sight of that truth, as well as serving others with generosity.
So, take a moment to think of ways you could be quick to acknowledge others’ success and slow to criticise their shortcomings. For example, how could you recognise when others have gifts you don’t? How could you create an atmosphere of encouragement, where everyone is respected for the work they do? And how could you find ways to ensure others have input into your workplace and how it operates?
These are all ways to serve in generous leadership. We depend upon the Holy Spirit, upon God’s Word, and upon the support of people we can trust to keep us grounded and protect us from loving leadership for its own sake. How can your leadership be generous?
Revd Dr Jenni Williams
Vicar of St Matthew with St Luke, Oxford, and former Tutor in Old Testament at Wycliffe Hall