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									        The Joseph Principle and the Joseph Blessing
              Genesis 41 and Deuteronomy 33
                          A Sermon by Dr. Neil Chadwick

It's the name given to several colleges and universities in the US and other countries,
as well as a personal name given to thousands of boys. The name, first given by a
mother after her bareness had finally been lifted, means "May God add."

In the Bible, there are a dozen men with this name. Some of them are lesser known,
such as one of the brothers of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). One of the two candidates for
Apostleship nominated to take the place of Judas bore this name - he was not
chosen. There was also the man from Arimathea in whose tomb Jesus was buried,
and a traveling companion of Paul whose name had been changed to Barnabas. We
more likely remember this name in association with Christ’s birth - he was a
carpenter, the husband of Mary, Jesus' mother.

But by far the most prominent man with this name was the eleventh son of Jacob,
the firstborn of his favored wife, Rachel. We remember him for his "coat of many
colors" and the jealous brothers who captured him, feigned his death and sold him
as a slave - sibling rivalry taken to the extreme!

Joseph is also well remembered for his strong character which enabled him to resist
the temptation of an attractive and powerful woman, his patient endurance of an
unjust imprisonment, his ability to interpret dreams, and his remarkable rise to
power. Perhaps the most memorable line concerning Joseph was spoken when he
forgave his brothers and said,

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now
being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

But the story out of Joseph's life which we want to emphasize is one taken from his
adult years, after he had reached the pinnacle of his career as what we might call
the COO - Chief Operational Officer of Egypt.

During this time, at age 30, when Joseph had earned the trust of the King, and with
it the authority to manage the business of this vast kingdom, Joseph interpreted the
King’s dream where God showed him that there would be seven years of plenty
followed by seven years of famine. It was a rather weird dream in which seven
skinny cows devoured seven fat ones, but when they were done, the cows looked just
as skinny as before. (Genesis 41)

The story is well known, and how Joseph handled this situation has been given a
name, the "Joseph Principle."
Simply put, Joseph put a plan in place whereby a portion (20%) of the abundance of
grain harvested during the good years was stored up so that when the famine came,
there was a plentiful supply to provide for all the food needs of the people of Egypt,
and even for the many desperate people who came from other countries to purchase
grain. (Genesis 41:57)

Today this plan might be called “Un-American” because it is in sharp contrast to
the way most of us live our lives. We are told that the health of our economy is based
upon our willingness to “consume, consume, consume”; Joseph was able to get the
people to “save, save, save.”

Recently, in living color displayed in our living-rooms, we have been given an
example of what happens when entire cities of people live from day to day with little
thought or preparation for how they will be provided for when disaster strikes. A
thousand people died, and tens of thousands were desperately thrown upon the
mercy of a blame-game, nearly bankrupt, and sometimes corrupt government, or
tossed out like stray cats looking for someone kind enough to take them in.

In contrast to this, in his day, Joseph had the foresight and wisdom to understand
that if the people were to consume all they had at the present, they would not have
enough to sustain themselves through the hard times that were sure to come. He
could have given the surplus back, but perhaps Joseph assumed that most people
receiving this “tax rebate” would not be disciplined enough to save it, but would
quickly spend it, as did most Americans with their own $350.00 benefit from the
President’s tax cut.

Without boring you with too many numbers, let me try to describe for you our
current situation in America, as it is in sharp contrast to this Biblical “Joseph
Principle.”

First, let’s talk about spending and savings.

The truth of the matter is, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Americans have no regular
savings plan.

On the other hand, according to some economic commentators, rapidly rising house
prices in recent years have made many homeowners feel wealthy, so they have
ramped up their day-to-day spending. This is a disturbing trend, for if interest rates
increase by just 2 percent, it will suppress prices, lower sales and put a squeeze on
those who were marginally qualified to buy or re-finance, because their payments
would suddenly go up. (For example, monthly payments for a mortgage of $150,000
will increase by $200.00.)

America is on a spending binge unlike anything we have ever known, and this
signals the fact that we are materialistic to the core.
Just a month ago (September 4, 2005) the Washington Times printed an editorial on
spending and saving. The article pointed out that for the month of July (2005), the
Commerce Department reported that Americans received $9,082 billion in
disposable personal income. However, during that same month, we spent $9,140.8
billion, $58.8 billion more than we earned! The personal saving rate was a negative
0.6 percent - for each $100 in personal income, we spent $100.65.

This pattern of increase spending and decreased saving appears to be a trend -
during the past quarter century, the personal saving rate has been steadily going
downward.

During the first half of the 1980s we saved an average of 10.4% of what we earned;
during the second half of the 1980s, the personal saving rate fell to 7.7%.

During the first half of the 1990s we saved an average of 6.5%; and during the
second half of the 1990s, the saving rate fell to 3.8%.

During the 2000-2003 period, the personal saving rate averaged 2.2%; in 2004 it was
1.8 %.

During the first six months of 2005, it averaged 0.4 percent, and then in July, we
crossed the line into negative spending.

In chart form, it looks like this:




This should alarm us. Since the Great Depression, there has only been one other
month during which the personal saving rate was negative. That was October 2001,
the month following the September 11 terrorist attacks, when the personal saving
rate was a negative 0.2 percent.

As Americans, we spend, we don’t save – evidently we’re convinced that the
proverbial “rainy day” will never come to us.

Now let’s talk about the other side of the coin, our escalating debt.
Total debt in America (including off-budget items) is in excess of $40 trillion. It is
difficult for us to even fathom such enormous numbers, but If I had $1 trillion, and
spent $3,000 each day, it would take me a million years to spend it all.

But not only are we drowning in our debt, the waters keep rising, and it is very
doubtful that this materialistic trend will be turned around. We are a people out of
control in terms of our spending. (http://mwhodges.home.att.net/nat-debt/debt-nat-
a.htm)

The fact of the matter is, during the past half century, our total debt has increased 5
times.

In 1957, total debt (personal and national) allocated on a per capita basis (adjusted
for inflation) was $27,084 per man, woman and child - by last year it had risen to
$136,479. (Assuming a population of 293,085,383.)




One of the ways we run up our personal debt is through Credit Card use (or
misuse). Listen to this alarming report:

The most recent figures to be found tell us that in 2003, the average credit-card debt
of US households with at least one card was $9,205, up from $2,966 in 1990 - - that's
310% higher (CardWeb.com).

According to the March 2004 Cambridge Consumer Credit Index, 42% of
Americans are making just minimum payments or no payments on their credit card
balances. Another 39% pay less than half the balance owed but more than the
minimum, while 19% pay more than half their balances. The same firm in 2004
said, "About 51 million households carry credit-card debt at an average balance of
nearly $12,000" – that means $612 billion in total debt for those households.
(http://www.hillnews.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Frontpage/031005/creditcard
.html)
Let’s take the example of Mike, who in 1987 had accumulated debts totaling nearly
$700,000. Through a series of circumstances, Mike and his wife began to seriously
pray concerning their finances. After several months, it became clear to them that
God wanted them to get out of debt. They totally surrendered their entire financial
lives to God and began their journey towards financial freedom. By learning and
applying God’s principles for financial freedom they were able to become totally
debt free within 10 years.

During this time, Mike began to learn a lot about Americans and their financial
dealings. Among other things, he learned that 70% are living paycheck to paycheck,
95% argue about money related topics on a regular basis, 95% finance one or more
autos at an average of $400 per month for five years.

Mike also learned that most of us need a reality check, because even though our
economic situation is disastrous, we’re not worried about it! When 40,000
Americans were polled by Newsweek Magazine, and asked if they were really
worried about their finances, only 11% said yes!

By the way, Mike also discovered that of the 40% of Americans who say they attend
church weekly, 17% say they tithe, while only 3% actually do!
(http://www.coeinc.org/financialstatistics.htm)

So what does the Lord think about all this debt? Indebtedness is a form of servitude.
(“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” - Proverbs
22:7). Far too many people are slaves to debt.

The Bible also says, “The wicked borrows and pays not again” (Psalms 37:21). And
yet, what do Americans do in the face of this surmounting debt? They file for
bankruptcy.

In the minds of some, declaring bankruptcy has almost become a national pass-time.
Seventy percent of those who file for bankruptcy never pay back a dime of what
they owe.

Just recently a bankruptcy reform bill was passed into law which will go into effect
later this month. According to USA Today, “Debtors are responding . . . personal
bankruptcy filings have jumped this month to the highest on record, with filings
averaging more than 9,000 a day, up roughly 50% from last year's average daily
volume during the first two weeks of September.”

You see, that’s the American way, build up debt through irresponsible spending,
and then hire a lawyer to get the courts to file “Chapter 7” and wipe out debts so
you can start all over.

So here’s the picture – reckless, compulsive spending, an overwhelming mountain of
debt, and irresponsible bankruptcy – all of which is not pleasing to God.
If we followed the “Joseph Principle,” what would be different? Simply this, in the
present, we would see to it that we are providing for the future.

Think about this word “pro” “vide” – it literally means to see (video) ahead. To
provide is to be future oriented, to do today what will have a positive impact on
tomorrow. Another word for it might be the four letter word, “PLAN”.

"The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."
(Proverbs 21:5)

The question to ask of those who want to “provide” for themselves and for their
families is this, “Are you establishing responsible financial goals, and do you have a
plan to reach those goals?” Here’s some good advice about setting goals:

1. Goals must be clearly articulated, preferably written. An unwritten goal is merely
a wish, easily forgotten and subject to change at the slightest whim. Less than 30%
of us use a written monthly budget to manage household finances.

2. Nobody can set your financial goals for you. If you are going to do what it takes to
reach a goal, then make sure they are your goals.

3. Goals should have these four characteristics, remembered by the acrostic MAPS -
measurable, achievable, purposeful and specific. Measurable because only that
which can be measured can be managed. Achievable because if you do not believe
you can reach the goal you never will. Purposeful because there must be a greater
reason than just attaining some thing. And finally, specific because you get better
results from what you inspect than what you expect.

4. Goals must have a deadline. A goal without a deadline is just a philosophical
statement of intent. A deadline is the foundation of a commitment.

Now let’s go back to the Joseph Principle. We can divide this into three parts:

1. Joseph clearly understood that he was managing someone else’s property.

David also understood this when he wrote, “The earth is the LORD'S, and the
fullness thereof.” The NIV says it more plainly, “The earth is the LORD's, and
everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalms 24:1) (Incidentally,
though in a different context, repeated by Paul in I Corinthians 10:26.)

In this regard, a legitimate question is, “Whose money is in your pocket?” The
Christian’s quick answer is, “God’s”! We fully accept this truth that God owns
everything – therefore we are managing what is not ours, and some day will be
accountable for how well we have done.
It seems to me that there is widespread practical atheism among Christians. That
means that we say we believe in God, but that’s not what we practice. For example,
when the preacher starts to talk about tithing, we immediately think that this is
what they all do, try to get rich off of poor people’s sacrifice, or that tithing is just
another tax, a temple tax, or it’s dues that one must pay to receive the benefits of
membership in the organization. And all of this is wrong-headed. Tithing is nothing
more or less than “putting your money where your mouth is.” We tithe to
demonstrate to ourselves and to God that we do believe it, everything belongs to
God.

2. The people of Joseph’s day were willing to sacrifice in the present to provide for
the future.

Newsweek, in its August 22, 2005 edition, commented on the news about negative
savings by noting, “As a society, we seem unwilling to devote even a penny to the
future . . . a low savings rate reflects national character - an addiction to immediate
gratification.” And this comes from a secular magazine!

Perhaps Christians neglect preparations for the future by saying, “Jesus is coming
soon, so it’s OK to go deep in debt – I’ll leave my debt to the Anti-Christ.”
Unfortunately, they end up leaving their debt to their children who themselves have
to go into debt just to pay the funeral costs of their unwise parents.

I say, let’s all be “un-American” and stop the spending and start the saving.

3. The savings plan instituted by Joseph was done for the benefit of others, in fact
saving the lives of many including his own extended family.

Yes, the Egyptians did this for their own country, but it turned out to be a blessing
which spread to other countries as well.

How well we remember the historic words of a former President, “Ask not what
your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Recently I
heard someone make the comment that it’s rather sad that that President’s own
party has seemingly forgotten his call, for they have become the champions of
governmental dole, training citizens not to worry, not to plan, not to save – after all,
your rich Uncle Sam will take care of you. Thus we have become a country
characterized by irresponsibility.

Let’s remember the advice of Paul, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer,
but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have
something to share with those in need.” (Ephesians 4:28)

Christians don’t take financial responsibility seriously just to secure their own
success, power or pleasure, but rather that they may be a blessing to others.
Finally, we believe that those who practice the Joseph Principle will receive the
Joseph Blessing.

Before Moses died, he pronounced a blessing on each of the sons of Israel and upon
their descendants who now made up the twelve tribes of the emerging nation. When
he came to Joseph, this is what Moses pronounced:

       "May the LORD bless his land with the precious dew from heaven above and
       with the deep waters that lie below; with the best the sun brings forth and the
       finest the moon can yield; with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains
       and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth
       and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all
       these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his
       brothers.” (Deuteronomy 33:13-16)

I believe it’s fair to assume that this blessing will flow to all who are in the Joseph
tribe, who faithfully practice the Joseph Principle.


                               Discussion Questions
                    The Joseph Principle and the Joseph Blessing

                            Genesis 41 and Deuteronomy 33

1. Who are some of the people in the Bible who have the same name as Jacob's
eleventh son? What does this name mean?

2. What are some of memorable stories concerning this Biblical character to whom
is dedicated several chapters in Genesis?

3. What did Joseph say to his brothers to indicate he had forgiven them?

4. When he was around 30 years old, Joseph interpreted the King of Egypt's dream.
What was the dream, and how was Joseph rewarded?

5. What did Joseph do which we now have called "The Joseph Principle"?

6. Today, why might we consider what Joseph did to be "un-American?

7. How have recent events demonstrated the tragic consequences associated with
lack of foresight and planning for the future?

8. Why do you think it is that nearly two-thirds (62%) of Americans have no regular
savings plan?
9. Between 1980 and the present, American's average savings has decreased from
10.4% to a minus .6%. Why is this considered to be a serious problem?

10. If every person's share of our total debt is $136,479, the how much does your
family owe, and how do you intend on paying it off?

11. What forms of debt are increasingly common, and why are these kinds of debt
growing so quickly?

12. What does the Bible say concerning the relationship between lender and
borrower?

13. If 17% of Christians say they tithe, but only 3% do, does that necessarily mean
they are untruthful?

14. At the present time, why is there such a rush on bankruptcy courts?

15. What four letter word would be employed if we were following the Joseph
Principle?

16. Complete these three statements as they apply to the Joseph Principle:

1. Joseph clearly understood that he was managing . . . . 2. The people of Joseph’s
day were willing to sacrifice in the present . . . . 3. The savings plan instituted by
Joseph was done to benefit . . . .

17. What word could summarize the blessing pronounced by Moses upon the
descendants of Joseph?

								
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