Tom Hayes


Genesis 39:1-23

It is a most interesting sight to witness a big ship coming into harbor. Although all the attention is centered around the giant vessel, it is evidently a cooperative effort. Both the guide boats and the tug boats work together, beside and behind, to point and push the large boat into the proper slot in the port. It is not the only ship, and it may not be the prettiest ship, but STEWARDSHIP is a big ship in the Scriptures. It is often seen moving through biblical waters, porting in many great harbors. From Genesis, where Adam was made a steward over the earth, to Revelation, where we are told that the saints shall rule with Christ on the earth, this important ship makes its presence known.

There are other little ships that prepare the way for STEWARDSHIP, and tug boats that greatly assist it in its movements in and out of the harbors. Sometimes, they are hidden, being obstructed by the larger vessel. But, at other times, as in the story of Joseph (the harbor we are presently viewing), they are very visible.

1. Stewardship And Ownership

A steward is someone who manages what someone else owns. He is not the owner, but one to whom, or in whose hands, the owner has committed his goods. In this biblical setting, Joseph is not the owner. Potiphar owns it all, and even owns Joseph, having "bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites" (Gen. 39:1). Joseph is only the steward of Potiphar's house and possessions.

Recognizing his master's ownership, Joseph graciously submitted to Potiphar's authority. And, in the God-ordered place of humility, "he found grace in his sight" (39:4). Consequently, the service he rendered was not out of bondage, or slavish fear. He "served him" (39:4) respectfully and gladly, not just because he had to, but because he wanted to!

None of us own anything! "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1). We are only stewards of that which the Lord has entrusted to us. In the spiritual sphere, we, who have savingly trusted Christ, are not our own, either! We have been "bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20). Constrained by His love and goodness, we are stewards, hopefully, good stewards, of "the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 4:10), of our lives, and of our substance.

2. Stewardship And Overseership

While it is true that the steward is not the owner, but only a servant of the owner, in his position as steward, he is accountable for everything just like he was the owner. As is evident in the experience of Joseph, who Potiphar "made overseer over his house" (39:4) and "overseer in his house" (39:5), the steward not only wears a title, but assumes the responsibilities and the burdens of the owner.

Potiphar "left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat" (39:6). To say the least, then, Joseph was the faithful steward, the guardian, or the custodian, of all his master possessed. And, in his allegiance, first to God, and then to God's providential arrangements, which involved his position under Potiphar, God blessed Joseph, and Potiphar reaped the fringe benefits (see 39:5, 6).

As Christians, we have more than a title. Whatever our lot in life, we must recognize our responsibility under God in that sphere. All of us have a Potiphar, of sorts, over us, and a Potiphar's house over which God has put us. Moreover, we are all accountable to serve, in Christ's stead, in our different stations. To use the words of the Apostle Paul, "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:1). May our families, friends, and associates enjoy a measure of God's blessings as we obey Him!

3. Stewardship And Ordership

With rule comes a demand for responsibility, and with responsibility comes a demand for reliability! It is not enough for a steward to give orders to everyone in the master's house. He must have his own house in order! Self-discipline and self-denial are to be exemplified in every area of his life. His mind, or his thinking; his soul, or his emotions; and his body, or his moral conduct; must all be yielded to his master's will.

Joseph was such a steward! Although he would eventually suffer wrong for doing right, he knew his order, and ordered his life accordingly. He not only was unquestionably loyal to his master, but he was also totally committed to the Lord. When Potiphar's wife made her seductive move for Joseph, he stood firmly and said, "There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (39:9).

Stewardship involves more than giving a tenth of our income to the Lord. Like the other ninety percent, the tithe already belongs to Him! Our Master wants more than money! Whatever the cost, we are to be fully submitted to Him. We are called upon to set the entire course of our lives in order. May we understand, afresh, the greatest commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37).

It has been my privilege to speak on several Christian cruises over the years. Often, when my family and I have arrived in the port to board the boat, someone would spot our cruise-liner among the others and say, "There's our ship!" For sure, STEWARDSHIP is not a vessel that takes five-day excursions. But, from our hearts and through our lives, may we be able to say, "There's our ship!" God grant it to be so! Amen.