JOSEPH'S ACHIEVEMENTS. -- Gen.37, 39-48, 50.
Hist. Bible, I, 121-150.
Hastings' Dict. Bible, II, 770-772.
Emerson, Essay on Character.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his other children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic with sleeves. And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his other sons, they hated him, and could not speak to him.
But Jehovah was with Joseph so that he became a prosperous man, and was in the house of his master the Egyptian. When his master saw that Jehovah was with him, and that Jehovah caused everything that he did to prosper in his hands, Joseph found favor in his eyes, as he ministered to him, so that he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put in his charge.
And Jehovah was with Joseph and showed kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison, so that the keeper of the prison gave to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the prison, and for whatever they did he was responsible.
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have appointed you over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his finger and put it upon Joseph's finger, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck, and made him ride in the second chariot which he had. Then they cried before him, Bow the knee! Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh also said to Joseph, I am Pharaoh, but without your consent shall no man lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt. -- Hist. Bible.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? -- Matt.16:36.
Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. -- Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, Act. I, Sc.2, L.139).
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of Heaven we must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it; but we must sail and not drift, nor lie at anchor. -- O. W. Holmes.
He that respects himself is safe from others;
He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
It is more important to make a life than to make a
living. -- Ex-Governor Russell of Massachusetts.
THE QUALITIES ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESS.
The late Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) advised a young man who desired to enter business to select the firm with which he wished to be associated, then ask that they give him work, without mentioning the subject of compensation. Having secured this opportunity to demonstrate his ability and willingness to work, recognition would come in due time. This advice received the approval of many prominent business men. It concretely illustrates the fact that the first essential of success is the willingness to serve. It also emphasizes the necessity of being ready to do the work in accordance with the employer's wishes. Ultimate success also requires knowledge and trained ability. These, however, come through apprenticeship and a faithful improvement of opportunities. The Hebrew sages, with true insight, emphasized the importance of knowledge; but they taught also that wisdom, which is not only knowledge, but the power to apply it practically in the various relations of life, was far more important.
What other qualities are essential to the highest success? Is it very important that a man should have the right moral standards? How do a man's habits affect his efficiency?
Is it only the genius who is able to attain the highest success to-day in business and professional life? Do you accept George Eliot's definition of genius as |the capacity for unlimited work|? To what extent does a man's faith in God and in his fellow men determine his ability to win success? How far are they essential to the attainment of the highest type of success?
THE LIMITATIONS AND TEMPTATIONS OF JOSEPH'S EARLY LIFE.
The Hebrew sage who uttered the prayer:
Remove far from me falsehood and lies;
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is needful for me.
voiced a great economic as well as moral principle. The men who are handicapped to-day in the race for success are either those who are born in homes of extreme poverty or of extreme wealth where they are unnaturally barred or shielded from the real problems and tasks of life. Which is probably the greater handicap? To which class did Joseph belong?
In what ways did his father show his favoritism towards Joseph? The Hebrew word rendered in the older translations, |coat of many colors,| means literally, |long-sleeved tunic.| This garment, like those worn by wealthy Chinese when in native costume, distinguished the rich or the nobility, who were not under the necessity of engaging in manual labor.
The dreams which Joseph told to his brothers reveal his high estimate of his own importance and were probably suggested by his father's attitude toward him. They were indeed a revelation of the ambitions already stirring in the young boy's mind. But Joseph required closer contact with real life in order to transform his ambitions into actual achievements.
Joseph gave his brothers cause for hatred toward him, but their action in selling him to the Ishmaelites was by no means justifiable. Nevertheless it brought to Joseph the experiences and opportunities absolutely essential to the attainment of his ultimate success. Often what seem man's greatest misfortunes are in reality the door that opens to the new and larger opportunities. In what two ways may a man meet misfortune?
THE CALL OF A GREAT OPPORTUNITY.
Egypt, with its marvelous natural resources, its peculiar climate, its irrigation, which usually guarantees good crops, and its versatile people, has always been pre-eminently the land of opportunity. Especially was this true during the reigns of the powerful despots of the eighteenth dynasty, when the relations between Egypt and Palestine were exceedingly close. Thus, for example, according to contemporary records, during the reign of the great reformer king, Amenhotep IV, several Semites rose to positions of great authority. A certain Dudu (David) was one of the most trusted officials of this king. He is addressed by one of the Egyptian governors as |My lord, my father.| Another Semite named Yanhamu not only had control of the storehouses of grain in the eastern part of the Nile Delta, but also directed the Egyptian rule of Palestine. The local governors of Palestine refer to him in terms which suggest that his authority was almost equal to that of Pharaoh himself. This was perhaps the Joseph of the Biblical account.
Is there any evidence that Joseph complained because of the injustice of his brothers? By loyal attention to his duties he made himself indispensable to his Egyptian master. A great temptation came to him in the new home. What influences led him to resist this temptation? Analyze his probable motives in detail.
The great injustice which he suffered and the seeming misfortune proved in turn a new door of opportunity, but this would not have been the case had not Joseph forgotten his own personal wrongs and given himself to the service of his fellow-prisoners. Was the prosperity which generally attended Joseph a miraculous gift or the natural consequences of his courageous, helpful spirit and his skill in making the best of every situation?
In modern life as in the ancient story, the place usually seeks the man who is fitted to fill it. The ever recurring complaint of employers is the scarcity of good men, especially of men able to exercise discretion in positions of responsibility. Was it Joseph's skill in interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, or his wise counsel in suggesting methods of providing for the people during famine that gave him his position of high trust and authority? Was the policy which made Pharaoh practical owner of all the land first instituted by Joseph, or was it already in force in Egypt? (Hist. Bible, I, 133.) In the thought of the prophetic narrative, was Joseph's fiscal system regarded as evidence of his loyalty to his master rather than of disloyalty to the interests of the people? Was the system suited to that stage and kind of civilization? Can this be cited by Socialists to-day as a valid argument in favor of public ownership of all land? If not, why not?
Three principles, illustrated by Joseph's life, are true to all time: (1) The only successful way to forget one's own burdens is to help bear another's; (2) God makes all things work together for good to those that love him; (3) he alone who improves the small opportunities will not miss the great chances of life.
THE TEMPTATIONS OF SUCCESS.
Modern life, and especially that in America to-day, is full of illustrations of the overwhelming temptations which come to the man who has had great success. Many a man has enjoyed the confidence and respect of his associates until his abilities have won for him large wealth with which apparently comes at times a misleading sense of immunity from the ordinary moral obligations. The result has been that the sterling virtues which have enabled him to win success have been quickly undermined and his public and private acts have become the theme of the public press. Instead of being an honor he has become a disgrace to his nation.
Joseph's sudden rise to power surpassed anything told in the Arabian Nights' Tales, and yet he remained the same simple, unaffected man, more thoughtful for another's interests than for his own. The supreme test came in his contact with his brothers, who had insulted and cruelly wronged him. They were completely at his mercy and he had abundant reason for ignoring the obligations of kinship. Did Joseph hide his cup in Benjamin's sack and later hold him as a hostage in order to punish his brothers or to test their honor and fidelity? Was this action wise? Did the brothers stand the test?
No class was regarded by the Egyptians with greater scorn and contempt than the shepherds to whom they entrusted their flocks, because the task of herding sheep was regarded as too menial for an Egyptian. The public recognition of his shepherd kinsmen, therefore, revealed in Joseph the noblest and most courageous qualities.
Why is such loyalty a primary obligation? Is it to-day regarded by all thoughtful men as one of the clearest evidences of a strong character? Can you give any modern illustrations, perhaps among your acquaintances? What is a snob? Did Joseph leave undone any act which loyalty to his kinsmen could prompt? Is Joseph's character as portrayed by the prophetic account practically perfect? Of the three characters, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, which offers more practical suggestions to the man of to-day? Which has exerted the most powerful influence upon the ideals and conduct of the human race?
THE STANDARDS OF REAL SUCCESS.
It is natural and inevitable that the various social classes of each succeeding generation should define their standards of success concretely, that is, by the lives and achievements of those who have done great things. In certain social groups the world's champion prize fighter is the beau ideal of success. Among the Camorrists of Italy that ideal is the successful blackmailer. In many sections of our great cities the powerful ward boss, whatever be his methods, is regarded as the embodiment of success. Too often in America to-day, both in the public press and in the public mind, the multi-millionaire is regarded as the pre-eminently successful man. Although the power to amass wealth is evidence of marked ability, the homage paid to it is one of the most sinister tendencies in American life. Ordinarily it means that the ambitions and achievements of a Jacob, rather than those of a Joseph, are set before the youth as the supreme goal for which to strive. A most hopeful element in the present situation is that many of the world's wealthiest men are proclaiming their sense of responsibility to society in ways both practical and impressive. Far more significant than their actual gifts is this public declaration that each man is indeed his brother's keeper, and that no man has a right to use his wealth simply for his own pleasure.
Leonidas and his fearless patriotic followers at Thermopylae left an impress upon Greek life and character that did not fade for centuries. The spirit of Robert Bruce still lingers among the crags and heather-clad hills of Scotland. The patriotic devotion of Garibaldi has imparted a new character to the Italian race. Two hundred million of the world's inhabitants still bear the imprint of the fiery faith and fanaticism of Mahomet.
America is rich in its memories of the achievements of such as Washington, Lincoln, Morse, Beecher and Emerson. What characters in all history seem to you the best examples of real success? What men and women in the present generation? How can the great majority of the boys and girls and the men and women of to-day be led to accept those higher ideals of success which are the lodestones drawing on the race to higher achievement?
THE METHODS OF SUCCESS.
The story is told of the late President Garfield that in the heat of a political campaign one of his lieutenants suggested that he adopt an exceedingly questionable policy. When Mr. Garfield objected, his lieutenant replied, |No one will know it.| |But I shall know,| was the quick reply.
-- |To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.|
-- Hamlet, Act I, Sc.3.
Wealth and power are worthy goals for which to strive. One of the first duties of a political party is to capture the offices, for without them in its power it cannot carry out the principles for which it stands. The possession of wealth represents vast possibilities for service. Thousands of tragic experiments have demonstrated, however, the fallacy of the seductive doctrine that the end justifies the means. The tragedy that overshadows many of the seemingly most successful men of to-day is the memory of the iniquitous methods whereby they have acquired wealth or mounted to power. Lavish philanthropy and the beneficent use of power can never wholly blot out from the public mind or from the mind of the successful man the memory of certain questionable acts that at the time seemed essential to the realization of a great policy.
A keen, well-informed student of modern economic conditions has asserted that no man can succeed in business life today and remain true to the teachings of Jesus. Is this true? Is it true in professional life? Is it true in politics? One of our most prominent statesmen has said that he would have found it impossible to succeed and maintain his independence if he had been compelled to earn his living. He would have been compelled either to yield to the boss or quit politics. Who are some of the men in public life who are gaining success and yet maintaining Christian principles? If the ultimate ideal of real success is service, is there any other way in which men may obtain success? Is this true of every department of human effort? Does this principle make it possible for every man, however limited his ability and opportunities, to attain real success?
Questions for Further Consideration.
How would you define genius? Edison called it 2% of inspiration and 98% of perspiration. (But see James, Talks to Teachers.)
Is the chief difference between the successful and the unsuccessful man the ability to recognize and seize opportunities?
Would Joseph's policy in dealing with Pharaoh's subjects meet with public approval to-day?
Could Joseph have succeeded as well in a republic?
Does Joseph's land policy justify the single tax? Or serfdom such as Joseph countenanced?
What place does loyalty to humble friends and kinsmen take in the making of great and noble characters?
Would you say that the ultimate standard of all real success is service?
Would it be wise for the state to enforce service for the public good by a heavy, progressive inheritance tax?
What justification is there for such a modification of Joseph's land policy, as the single tax? (See George, Progress and Poverty; Seligman, Essays on Taxation, 64-94.)
Do you think that a man earning his own living can expect to-day to succeed in politics and maintain his self-respect as an independent thinker?
Subjects for Further Study.
(1) The Origin and Literary Form of the Joseph Narratives. Kent, Student's O. T. I, 126-127; Hastings, Dict. Bible II, 767-769; Smith, O. T. History, 54-55.
(2) Contemporary Parallels to the Joseph of the Biblical Narratives. Hastings' Dict. Bible II, 772-775.
(3) Compare and Contrast the Achievements of Joseph, Bismarck and Cecil Rhodes.