The 3,600-year-old Biblical Way to Always Feel Like You’re Rich
The First Joseph Way to increase wealth? “What he says to you, do” “Joseph Sold By His Brothers” by Jan Wildens (1584–1683). Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons.
The name Joseph means “Increase,” taking what you have (even if it’s just a dream) and making it happen.
The first Joseph went from “favorite son” to slave to governor — and used an impressive investment strategy to feed the world. More than 3,600 years later, the First Joseph Principals are just as applicable today:
- Everything is a gift — but no gift is perfect. Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob (later renamed Israel), Isaac’s grandson, and great-grandson of Abraham, was Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob gave Joseph an amazing multi-colored coat, and as a result, his brothers resented him.
- The sin of envy is often disguised as the desire for justice. Knowing their father favored Joseph over them, his brothers began to hate him. When Joseph, at age 17, revealed his prophetic dreams of dominion, that “the moon and 11 stars were bowing before me,’’ his 11 brothers got angry. They planned to kill him but instead chose to sell him into slavery.
- Always make the most of your talents — but devote them to a cause greater than yourself. Even as a slave, Joseph would be recognized for his talents and gifts. While enslaved, the wife of a master wanted to “lie with him.” He remained loyal to his master but still wound up in prison. Throughout his captivity, people recognized his gift for discerning the meaning of dreams, which he always considered prophetic words of knowledge, gifts from God.
- Accepting suffering and setbacks as gifts of opportunity that can lead to a greater good. Being imprisoned for two years enabled Joseph to meet two servants of the ruler of Egypt. Correctly interpreting their dreams led him to meet the Pharaoh.
- Recognizing everything is part of a bigger plan and connecting dots to discover greater narratives and patterns. Joseph correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams to realize Egypt would have seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine.
- Planning and budgeting for good and bad years — and knowing how to execute the plan. Joseph quickly gave Pharaoh a brilliant plan: save grain in the seven boom years to get Egypt through the seven years of famine. Pharaoh agreed and made Joseph his №2 with complete authority to implement and execute the plan.
- Focus on truth, building and earning trust. Pharaoh quickly trusted Joseph because he sensed Joseph was close to God, asking servants, “Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” He told Joseph no one seemed more discreet or wise, giving him greater authority. Pharaoh soon told all Egyptians, “Go to Joseph, what he says to you, do.”
- Be merciful, recognizing that everything that happens is part of a plan — allowed for a greater purpose.When Joseph’s brothers — who sold Joseph into slavery — return during the famine seeking food, Joseph helps them — balancing mercy and justice — but ultimately, he is loving and merciful, certain that God plans or allows everything for a greater purpose.
“God sent me before you to preserve life,’’ Joseph tells his brothers. “So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:6–9).
In other words, Joseph knows he would never have become a leader of Egypt, saving countless lives, if his brothers hadn’t first sold him into slavery. He knows everything — good and bad — fits into a greater plan.
As Egypt grew richer in a world devastated by famine, Joseph continually needed to choose the best ways to help most people in need. During his time — like the recent history of the United States — the children of Israel and other surrounding nations fled to a more prosperous nation for a better life. Joseph had to choose how to divide the grain and how to best feed people.
Years later, after their father dies, the brothers still fear Joseph will seek revenge, but he again sees the bigger picture: “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:20–21).
The first Joseph story appears in Genesis (the concluding story of the first book of the Bible) and a chapter of the Quran. His story was also the first musical of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (pre-dating their first breakthrough hit, “Jesus Christ Superstar”).
My own Joseph Principle story: You too can be rich like him
Whether Joseph was one of a dozen sons, enslaved, imprisoned, or one of the greatest rulers in Egypt (and the known world of his time), he stood out to all around him.
My own personalized “plan” following the Joseph Principle: On multiple occasions, we had “good years” followed by “bad years,” and we similarly learned to treat the changes as a gift, an opportunity.
When I got married at the start of my senior year in college, income dropped rapidly, from a joint income of $18,000 in 1986 to just $8,000 in 1987 (a 55 percent drop). The adjustment was painful, but that pain was ultimately a gift that taught us what Joseph taught Pharaoh and the world:
- We learned to develop a “minimum” budget we needed to live on, just as Joseph established a minimum amount of grain for Egypt to save and consume during boom years.
- In prosperous years, we could put anything over that minimum into savings (for big future expenses like a first house) or investments like retirement accounts.
Differentiating between what you need to survive and what’s “extra” income you can save or invest is the key. Spending everything you make as you make is like eating at “all you can eat” restaurants every night.
St. Joseph: History’s best known Joseph
Sixteen centuries after the first Joseph, St. Joseph and his wife, Blessed Mary, made their own escape to Egypt to save a new kind of bread of life: their Son, Jesus.
As Father Donald Calloway explains, “The story related in the Old Testament is true and is a prefiguration of a much greater Joseph who would bring his Son, the Bread from Heaven, to safety in Egypt. St. Joseph safeguarded a food capable of serving the entire world!”
Today, our worldwide famine is both spiritual and moral, Calloway argues, with millions feeling broken as families and relationships are torn apart and as “truth and common sense are in short supply.”
Calloway echoes pharaoh, advising people to “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.”