Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
In the midst of chaos, let there be light!
Is there any lesson in Scripture about a great economic crisis that afflicted the known world in biblical times? Yes there is. And the LORD has several lessons for us. There is no problem that man has experienced that has not been known before. GOD always provides a solution but it is up to man to implement it.
Let me remind you of the story of Joseph (Genesis chapters 37,39-45) who was sold as a slave by his own brothers to Ismaelite traders, who in turn sold Joseph to Potiphar, head of Pharaoh's bodyguards in Egypt. But let's fast forward when Joseph, as a slave and prisoner, was already 30 years old.
Pharaoh had two terrible dreams that put him in deep depression and none of all his magicians or wise men could interpret his dreams. Suddenly, the cupbearer remembered Joseph in prison and told Pharaoh about how the young Hebrew interpreted his dream accurately. Joseph was removed from prison hurriedly and presented before Pharaoh. Joseph glorified YHWH by referring to Him as the revealer of dreams. As Pharaoh recounted his dreams, Joseph interpreted them as one dream.
The gist of the two dreams were that Egypt was going to experience seven years of abundant harvest and afterwards, seven years of famine. The famine would be so severe that the seven years of abundance would be forgotten. Joseph even gave Pharaoh a proposal that would solve the impending disaster and ensure the food security of Egypt. As GOD purposed it, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as ruler of all Egypt second only to him, to administer the whole land and implement his proposal.
What does this mean to us today? A major economic crisis is not new. In fact, there have been a lot of major economic crisis all throughout history. And you know what? Many of them were caused by over-spending by governments to finance war. Does that sound familiar? Kublai Khan left the gold standard and printed paper money. Rome did the same thing and both their empires went down. They had the same problem. They spent more than they were earning. It is said that the family is a microcosm of the whole society. If a family spends more than it is earning, it's obviously going to get into a lot of trouble. This may sound simplistic to many but you just try doing this yourself and you'll soon find out when the creditors run after you.
Today, we have a famine of good godly leadership. Many are very much like Pharaoh. They are deeply disturbed and depressed, mostly because they don't know what to do. Some would like to bury their head in the sand like an ostrich. Some wished they were on a long vacation; but I know of someone whose actually going on a vacation in the midst of a major crisis! Some also wished they had men around them who know what they are doing - men who know the market and are wise.
Have you heard what some of these leaders are saying? Some espouse the idea that the only way to get out of a deficit is not to cut the deficit but to spend more. Just print more money. That is how to pay your debt. If you and I would do that, we would immediately be arrested for counterfeiting. Some say the government needs to bail out the major corporations, especially the banks in distress because they're too big to fail. Really? You and I should go into banking because it's very lucrative. You get to charge customers for 'investing' in imaginary negotiable instruments. You get to monetize debts even if its not worth anything because you're the third in the collection line on the mortgage. Unfortunately, you and I are not in that league. We're simply not connected to any of these fat cats. This has been going on since the beginning of time. Only the powerful and the rich has a say in the destiny of the nation; even in the leading democracy in the world.
The question is, does the rich and powerful know the solution to the world crisis? Only the future will tell. We will know because if the solution is real, then we would all have better lives. But if only the rich will benefit, then we know, we've been had!
What would Joseph do if he was here today?
Get rid of all the frills. Let's get down to brass tacks. I have no doubt, Joseph would have been shocked and speechless after looking at the balance sheet of the US of A, EU Countries, Japan, China, etc. No one should spend what he does not have. No one should promise what he can't deliver. No one should print fiat money when he knows that he does not have the funds to back it up. This is actually fraud – simply a Ponzi scheme! Debt did not happen overnight so the solution is not overnight but will take time through decisive action. When Joseph assumed leadership, he did not make a speech but he went out among the people in each city and began to implement GOD's plan (Gen 41:46-49). People won't care what you say until they see it put into action. Joseph was a hands on person and saw to it that all the plans that GOD gave him was implemented.
This is not about the survival of only a few, but the survival of a nation. The solution should not be tailored for only a few (like bailing out major banks) but ensuring that opportunity is given to all citizens to develop and improve their lot. In every country, the citizens would rather have dignity by working in a job they can be proud of. In Joseph's time, they gave seed to the people (Gen 47:23). A seed is a foundation by which something may grow and bear fruit. Hand outs have been proven to fail because it does not incentivize people to work more but only make them feel useless and unable to provide for their family.
The priority is food security. And I mean real food – whole raw food. A citizenry that is malnourished is weak and in the long run, will mean more expenses in health upkeep for the government. There are many kinds of foods that can be eaten but only food that is truly nutritious and unprocessed will give good health and help in the proper function of our bodies.
Implement taxation. Yes, Joseph espoused the implementation of taxes because the people were consuming everything, even the seeds, and selling their livestock. The people did not know how to manage their lives. Without livestock, how could they till their land? Without seed, what will they plant? Joseph imposed a twenty percent tax on all the produce of the land. He gathered the twenty percent tax proceeds in each city and stored it in granaries there for the duration of the seven years of abundance. Joseph sold the same produce to all Egyptians and other buyers at a fair price. When the people used up all their resources, Joseph bought all of them and provided seed for planting. The agreement was, the people were to give twenty percent of their produce to Pharaoh and retain eighty percent for themselves as food and seed for planting. Joseph knew that he must give people 'seed' so they can invest in their future. Food security was the goal, not just for Pharaoh, but for all Egypt. They did not think of conquering other nations weaker than them but even sold them food also. Pharaoh became rich during the tenure of Joseph because GOD was with him. It was a benevolent reign. What lessons for government does this story teach us?
nations with their gold and silver and other commercial goods. Joseph knew that trading would
strengthen their alliance with other nations and not only enrich Egypt but also enrich their
partners. A relationship is strengthened when a symbiotic interchange is established to
the benefit of both parties to their mutual satisfaction. Greed is definitely not good.
Fifthly, instead of taking advantage of other nations, Joseph would rather trade with other
Firstly, the people should have a part in building their nation. The citizens contribute in the
prosperity of their nation through obedience to the law and financial contribution.
Secondly, taxation should never be too much of a burden for the citizens to bear. Only do unto
others what you would have them do unto you. Joseph, through benevolent rule, allowed the
people to recover economically.
Thirdly, it is not the government's job to micro-manage each family but every family is expected
to take care of themselves from the proceeds of whatever earnings they have. The livelihood,
health and psychological needs of the family falls on the shoulders of the family themselves, not
the state. There is a great difference between those who cannot work and those who refuse to
work. Those who can work but refuse to work, do not eat.
Fourthly, government leaders should have both a short term plan and a long term plan. These
plans are action plans that are easy to understand and which subordinates can easily implement.
The government provides direction and guidance and executes sound plans for the food security,
dispensing justice, maintaining order and protection of the people. They leave business to the
businessmen because they are experts at it. They leave fighting to the military but in this case,
Pharaoh is a warrior and he leads the army in war. Planning is bringing tomorrow to the present
so we can understand and do what is necessary to ensure prosperity now and in the future.
Sixth, the medium of exchange is denominated in gold, silver or barter with products that have a
definite value, not 'fiat' money. The value of gold and silver are according to weigh and products
are exchanged with other products, the value of which are agreed upon, depending on the
demand and supply. This may sound archaic to us but it prevented individuals and nations from
over-spending. If you don't have any more resources, then you are bankrupt! The world prides
itself with being civilized and yet every other nation commits fraud in one way or another by
printing paper money without real resources backing it up. I think this is the very reason why the
IMF now demands nations who pay their debts to them in gold.
What leadership lessons could we gather from this story?
Leadership is nothing without divine revelation. In the world, leaders pride themselves for
possessing vision but as elaborate and colorful they may be, they are just the tarnished dreams of a
architect of order. So if you want expert guidance, be like Joseph. Get close to GOD and let Him
teach you Himself because He will, if you ask. Have you ever wondered how Joseph was able to
preserve the grain in different cities for more than seven years? Could the present technology even
preserve grain for more than two years? Who do you think gave Joseph the technology so that
even after seven years, their grain were just as fresh as the day of harvest?
proud man. The truth is, GOD is the original designer and He is the origin of creativity and the
Leaders know how to follow. Joseph's life was characterized by obedience to YHWH. He
treasured his relationship with his GOD; and as a result, he obeyed those who were above him,
even if they were pagans. One cannot be a leader who does not know how to follow first. Nobody
is born a leader. A person becomes a leader through a process of life-tests in humility, very much
like what Joseph had. Unfortunately, the world abhors this kind of testing but even the world
hates a coward. Joseph was unjustly enslaved and put in prison for 17 years before GOD
promoted him but he took all the pain and triumph.
Real leaders are always willing to make the difficult decisions that are right. The true leader
always knows that there is only one way – the right way according to GOD. An alternative way
may sound more attractive and full of promise but it only ends in disaster and sure failure.
Real leaders are planners and they know how to implement their blueprint into concrete action.
He takes the lead through good example. They just don't make speeches but they get their hands
Real leaders inspire people to do their best. They don't drive people, they motivate and provide
them with a picture of a finished product. Joseph gave the people seed for planting and food for
their little ones. He inspired them to plant even in the midst of a famine, so their family will live.
He didn't strangle them with the debt they owe Pharaoh but only required twenty percent share so
they have a chance to recover. Joseph knew that the whip does not produce willing and motivated
workers but slaves. Although the people sold themselves to Pharaoh, Joseph did not treat them as
Real leaders see the ultimate goal – destiny with YHWH. He told his brothers, “..it was GOD who
sent me ahead of you to preserve life. GOD sent me ahead of you to ensure that you will have
descendants on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance. So it was not you who sent me
here, but GOD; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household and ruler over
the whole land of Egypt” (Gen 45:5, 7,8).
I leave you with the words of the Psalmist...
Unless ADONAI builds the house,
its builders work in vain.
Unless ADONAI guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
In vain do you get up early
and put off going to bed,
working hard to earn a living;
for He provides for His beloved
even when they sleep.