Not For Sale
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Respect What Belongs to Others
The fear of God helps us be good stewards over the things put in our custody. Potiphar realised God’s favour in Joseph. As a result, he entrusted everything to Joseph’s care. It is important to remember that he did not surrender the ownership of his household to Joseph—the things still belonged to him. Joseph was but taking care of the household on behalf of his master. The Bible says that Potiphar put everything in Joseph’s hands. There followed a great fortune in Potiphar’s house because of Joseph’s personal diligence and divine munificence. Despite all this, he neither abused his powers nor misused God’s favour. With godly integrity, he never betrayed his master’s trust.
“And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”—Genesis 39:7-9.
It sounds much the same what was the Garden of Eden. God had given everything to man, except one thing—the tree in the middle of the garden. The beauty of its fruit (the fruit was desirable) was not supposed to lure Adam and Eve into eating it. It could as well have been desirable but poisonous. Joseph, on his part, did not allow the woman’s beauty (I guess Potiphar’s wife was beautiful) lure him into reaching out to take the only thing he was not given in the house.
Reaching out to take what has not been given to us is a way of not being grateful for the things we already have. We belittle the value of what we have when we get preoccupied by what we don’t have. This is what the prophet Nathan implied when he confronted king David after the latter’s adulterous involvement with Bathsheba and murderous scheming against her husband, Uriah.
The prophet Nathan came to David and told him a parable of two men who lived in a city. One was rich, the other was poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds. The poor man on the other hand, had nothing, except one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up. One day, the rich man had a guest. Instead of taking one of his own animals to dress for his guest, he cast his eyes upon his neigbour’s only lamb and slaughtered it. That act was so wicked that it got king David waxing furious and judgemental. He immediately felled the mallet: “As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6).
In the middle of David’s assumption to the high moral ground, Nathan dropped the bolt from the blue: “Thou art the man!” The prophet followed this by declaring to him God’s disapproval and in the process pointing the king to what he already possessed but disregarded:
“I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.”—2 Samuel 12:7-9.
It was not a mistake that the king saw Bathsheba. A Kiswahili proverb says: Macho haina pasia (the eyes don’t have curtains). You never know what you are about to see until you see it, by which time it would be too late. It is what one chooses to do thereafter that becomes the issue.
It is understandable that as a man, David was sexually stirred when he saw Bathsheba bathing. The Bible says that she was very beautiful to look upon (2 Sam. 11:2). The image of the naked woman lodged in king David’s mind and the fantasy of having her in his bosom pitted his moral judgement against his sensual passion. Did he have what Joseph had? If only he remembered the latter!
Being the king, God had made him a steward over the people. If he was not disciplined, he was wont to be caught up in the abuse of power by accessing things that didn’t belong to him. After having ‘accidentally’ seen Bathsheba, the king ought to have run away from the rooftop into his bedroom and call one of his wives to help cool him. Stewardship calls for strength and a strong person is one who is able to conquer his own weakness.
We may not control what is going to pass or stand in front of our face. In one way or the other, we will have to deal with the aftermaths of seeing something attractive. Even if we don’t have the power and or opportunity to possess what we desire, the desire can lodge in our heart by way of covetousness. Like sickness that has to be operated on to be removed from the body, we need spiritual surgery to remove sins that easily lodge in our heart.
Not every appealing thing we see around us is for us to possess or use. There are things that for one reason or the other may be within our reach, yet they belong to others. A good steward takes a zealous care of things that belong to other people even better than he takes care of his own things.
A friend of mine sold away his company. After selling it, he continued to work there as the CEO. The change from an owner to an employee must have influenced the way he worked. I talked to him asking how it felt to climb down from a CEO who owned the company to a CEO who is employed. This was his answer: “I feel more responsible than I was when I owned the company!” How is that? When you are conscious about the fact that what you are managing belongs to somebody else, you will equally be conscious about the idea that at the end of the day, you will give an account.
Consider how Jacob accounted for and defended his stewardship before Laban his uncle cum father-in-law:
“This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.”—Genesis 31:38-40.
What belongs to somebody is usually very delicate, or so it feels. Once in a while, for one reason or the other I find myself driving a car that belongs to somebody else. I usually find myself extremely careful. But not everybody is like that. There are people who are extremely careless with things that belong to others. I don’t know how they deal with the conscience that is wont to remind them that should something happen, they will have to explain. It is easier to take good care of something than mess it up and then have to explain to the owner.
The Bible tells us that we qualify to own things of our own if we prove faithful in taking care of the things that belong to other people: “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” (Lk. 16:12).
The kind of integrity expected of a fiduciary is what qualifies one to be a good steward. Think of the uprightness of a person in whose care something is entrusted, waiting for a minor to come of age!
Reflections and Questions to Ponder
- Can you identify some of the things in your surrounding that you can say are ‘for your eyes only’ and those that you are not even supposed to dwell your eyes on?
- What are the dangers of staring too long at things that look pleasant yet they belong to other people?
- What are some of the consequences of taking things that God hasn’t given you?
- What are the strategies of vigilance in stewardship?
- “Thou art the man!” Is there a Nathan in your life to help you judge yourself? What can you do to make ‘Nathan’ speak to you before you stray?
- Suppose prophet Nathan came and rebuked king David directly without using a parable, what could have happened? Have you ever been rebuked for a wrongdoing? If yes, did you go on the defensive or you ate the humble pie and repented? If no, are you prepared that this may come sooner or later?
- Are there things that you have had in your custody for long until you feel like you cannot release them to the owner when they finally ask for them? What must you do in order to hold loosely on them?
- Some people pray earnestly, declaring that they claim and possess certain things in the Lord’s name. After making such prayer, does it mean that one can then refuse to hand over something back to its original owner because he has claimed it by faith?
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