Just like God who did not just create the heavens and the earth and then take leave, so did Joseph not just interpret the dreams and considered his work done. He decided to do more than he was asked—a shadow of the wisdom of Jesus who would later say: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matt. 5:41). Well, Joseph was not compelled to interpret the dreams, so it was not difficult to go an extra mile. The extra mile was that he took it upon himself to give an unsolicited advice.
He knew that there was likelihood that Egypt would get their bounty harvest, eat it away and suffer when the famine would finally catch up with her. It may look like a common sense that Egypt needed to store grains but more often common sense may not be as common as the designation portrays. That may explain why it took a wise man to advise, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8).
It was therefore an act of inspired wisdom for Joseph not to consider his work done after interpreting the dreams but instead took another step to advise Pharaoh on what to do.
“Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.”—Genesis 41:33-36.
Pharaoh liked what he heard. That was an advice from a wise man, Pharaoh would look no further to get the wise person to manage the food affairs—a wise man has just spoken before him and he could tell when he heard one. Listen to Pharaoh’s tribute: “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (v. 38). Some of Pharaoh’s servants might not have liked it. A foreigner, probably a criminal, who had just been brought in from prison is at the verge of being extremely promoted. But there was nothing they could do.
It was very important for Pharaoh to recognise the contribution that Joseph would make in the Egyptian society. He disregarded all the odds relating to Joseph’s immediate past. Sometimes, in His discretion, God sends foreigners to save a country. But even if a country is too big for a foreigner to impact, there are individuals who would benefit from foreigners in the country. I personally got saved through a foreigner that God had sent to our country. I thank the system that allowed them to stay in our country. That was for a parenthesis! Let’s get back to Joseph’s case.
Look at it again, especially after Joseph spelled out the strategic plan of action! Doesn’t it feel like a common sense that when we have plenty, we should keep something for the hard times? But how much is this ‘common sense’ operative in our daily life?
It is always advisable to have a reserve whether we know that hard times are imminent or when they are bound to catch us unawares. In Joseph’s case, the storing of grains was inspired by the dreams and the subsequent interpretation thereof revealing that hard times were forthcoming.
There are four important things I must emphasize regarding the need to save:
i) We don’t only save when we have abundance. We can still keep something aside even if it means cutting down on some essentials. One can decide to have ‘sacrificial saving.’
ii) We don’t only save when we have learnt that hard times are coming. More often, hard times come unannounced.
iii) The prudence or lack of it at stewardship is determined by whether we allow poverty to devour abundance or abundance to avert poverty.
iv) We save to create a buffer for financial shocks and emergencies that are bound to come from time to time.
Good management during abundance empowers the resources to overpower scarcity when the latter sets in. On the contrary, poor management weakens abundance making the latter vulnerable and therefore conquerable by scarcity. In other words, without saving, scarcity will make a meal out of abundance. Word of advice: it is not wise to overspend your money on luxuries today and lack money for essentials tomorrow.