August 6, 2014| 0

Best Biblical Career Advice: Think above your pay grade (Genesis 41:15-36)

15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” … 25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. … 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

“Career” is not really a biblical concept, as I discussed in the last Business Parable. The Bible has much to say about faithfulness, but very little to say about how to seek personal gain, status, or earning potential—the sorts of things we tend to think of with respect to career.

If, however, we think of career in terms of walking in faith—discovering and following the path of our calling in business or any other pursuit—then the Bible has much wisdom to offer, as in the story of Joseph.

Joseph, the most-loved son of Jacob [Gen. 37:3], followed a tortuous path filled with unexpected dangers and opportunities (could that be a definition of “career”?). Though he was sold into slavery and falsely imprisoned, he rose to become second only to Pharaoh as ruler of Egypt. Joseph's faithfulness and perspicacity saved Egypt and many surrounding nations from a devastating seven-year famine.

Hearing that Joseph had the gift of interpreting dreams, Pharoah asked him about a particularly troubling one. Joseph risked delivering a very unwelcome prediction of famine—news which Pharaoh might not have wanted to hear. But Joseph went beyond being the bearer of bad news and devised a plan to save Egypt. He spoke out of turn; he thought—and acted—“above his pay grade.” Along with the bad news, Joseph offered a plan and told Pharaoh, who held the power of life and death over him, what to do. Pharaoh responded by putting Joseph (undoubtedly the smartest hire Pharaoh ever made) in charge of implementing the plan, thereby saving his own kingdom, surrounding kingdoms, and even Joseph’s family back home in Judah.

Joseph’s example illustrates the value of being able to think “above your pay grade,” and of having the savvy to know if and when it is time to speak. We can also note that wise bosses are likely to promote such people. Why? The person who speaks up, offers a constructive plan, and provides a good solution demonstrates good thinking and a concern for the greater good, the higher aims, and the overarching vision for the enterprise. In Joseph’s case, this meant concern for the nation of Egypt and for Pharaoh’s rule.

Regardless of our role, it pays to think in terms of the larger enterprise. It’s more than a good career move: it’s an act of faithfulness to offer the best thoughts and efforts we can and let the chips fall where they may. When we offer our best and speak the truth in love, we can trust God with the outcome.

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© Bruce D. Baker, 2014

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