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    March 1905

    “A Lesson for All Workers” The Medical Missionary 14, 3.

    EJW

    E. J. Waggoner

    “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and “do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:17, 23, 24.MEDM March 1905, page 67.1

    These words were addressed by the apostle especially to servants who have “masters according to the flesh;” but it is self-evident that the same truth applies, in a pre-eminent degree, to all who are engaged in any part of what is technically called missionary work. Rightly looked at, all true and lawful work is one, whether it be sweeping floors, washing dishes, sawing wood, digging ditches, ministering to the needs of the afflicted, or preaching to sinners. To every one a work is given, according to his ability, and whoever knows that he is doing the work belonging to him, knows that he is serving the Lord Christ, even though he ranks but as the servant of another man like himself. It is this knowledge that, as Herbert says, “makes drudgery divine.” Only the recognition of this truth can make one truly contented and faithful in the humblest position.MEDM March 1905, page 67.2

    The history of Joseph is one of the most perfect illustrations of the working of this principle, that all work is the Lord’s work, and is to be done heartily, as to him. If all children had been thoroughly instructed in the story of Joseph,-not merely as a story, but in such a way that the lesson of his life was appreciated, and absorbed into the learner’s life,-there could never be such a thing as a strike; we should never hear such an expression as, “I am not paid for doing that work, and I shall not do it;” no one would question whether or not a certain thing was “in his line,” or whether it belonged to somebody else, and nobody would regulate his work according to the amount of money received for it, doing inferior work if little or no money were offered.MEDM March 1905, page 67.3

    Let us take a brief view of Joseph as a servant, noting the principle on which he worked. When a lad of only seventeen years he was rudely torn from home, where he had never known want, and had been tenderly shielded, and was sold to a distant country as a slave. Most people who have read the story of Joseph in Egypt, think of him only as steward in the household of Potiphar, and later, after a little experience in prison, as chief warder, and then the head of Egypt; but that is a most superficial view. Joseph did not at once become the trusted head of Potiphar’s house. It was not until “his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand,” that “he made him overseer over all his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.”MEDM March 1905, page 67.4

    A young Hebrew slave, becoming the property of an Egyptian lord, where he was only one of hundreds of bondservants, would naturally be set at first to menial tasks, to the first work that came to hand. He would be a servant of servants, receiving his orders from some other slave who had been longer in the service. Homeless and friendless, Joseph was but a very small item in a great establishment. To all human appearance there was no prospect but that his life would be spent in obscurity-lost to sight among a crowd of slaves; but that could not be; “for God was with him.”MEDM March 1905, page 68.1

    We can not properly appreciate Joseph’s character, and the principle on which he worked, without first forming a mental picture of the average person in the same situation. It is not difficult to do this, for we all have the materials before us, and are familiar with the thoughts and language of the average laborer. It would be something like this: The young man considers that he has been ill treated, and that the one who has bought him has no just claim to his services, and his first thought is that he will run away as soon as he can get a chance. Meanwhile, however, he is compelled to work; but as he receives no wages, he will do no more than he is obliged to. He will shirk every task that he can, taking care only to escape beating for his dilatoriness. His relation to his master is wholly one of antagonism: the master wants to get as much work out of him as possible, and he studies only to see how little he can do. From what we know of the disposition of many people who work for wages, we can recognize this as a perfectly natural sketch of one sold as a slave. And there are not many who would condemn a young man for not exerting himself when he could hope for nothing.MEDM March 1905, page 68.2

    But Joseph knew that “in all labor there is profit.” He knew that a man is not to work for a living, but to work because God has given him a living, making him a living being. He knew that in slighting a task he injured himself far more than he could injure the master; and, moreover, he had no desire to injure his master, for he knew that every ill turn to man is against God. So whatever his hand found to do he did with his might; and he did it as soon as his hand found the task, without waiting to be told to do it. Indeed, his hand was hunting for work, for he knew that on only by work could he develop to God’s standard and for him.MEDM March 1905, page 68.3

    Thus Joseph let his light shine. God was with him, and God is light, and light that shines in darkness can not be hid; and in process of time Potiphar’s attention was arrested by the sight of the young slave who worked as if he himself were to receive all the profit from his work. “And Joseph found grace in his sight.” “And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not aught he had, save the bread which which he did eat.”MEDM March 1905, page 68.4

    Joseph was now a master of servants but he was still a slave, subject to the caprice of his master, and suddenly he found himself in a dungeon, in a far worse plight than when he was sold into Egypt. Thrown into prison with without trial, there was no time set for his release, and he had no earthly prospect but to remain there indefinitely. But even here Joseph’s principles made him master of the situation. He was not responsible for the situation; but he recognized that his sole business was to work to the very best of his God-given ability, regardless the situation; and so he did, with the result that all know.MEDM March 1905, page 68.5

    But it must not be supposed that immediately on his entrance into the prison Joseph found himself appointed governor of it. Far from it. He was there as a common criminal, a Hebrew slave who had offended his master, and he found no easy place awaiting him. His “feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in iron.” As a prisoner he had his daily routine of work, but he was compelled to work with galling chains upon his limbs. Surely here, if anywhere, a man would be justified in neglecting his work and in doing so little of it as possible. But Joseph’s relation to the Lord was so close that he always lost sight of his apparent taskmasters, and worked as the immediate servant of “Him who is invisible.” If no work had been given him, he would have found some; for having life, he must work, and work in such a way as to make the most of his life. So he worked until all the work of the prison was in his hands; “and the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.”MEDM March 1905, page 69.1

    With the rest of the story all are familiar; that which we have considered is that is necessary for our present lesson. Looking back upon the completed history, we can see that from the first day that Joseph was in Egypt he was preparing to be its ruler. It was to that end that God sent him there. But we must remember that Joseph could not see all this. He could not see a single day ahead. But he could see the Lord always before him, and he worked in obscurity on, in fetters for a greater reward than any lordship of Egypt,-for no less a person than the Lord himself; for Joseph had God’s word to his great grandfather Abraham: “I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” This is what makes the story of Joseph seem so fitting for a missionary magazine; for we, as children of Abraham, have the same promise and prize set before us. With this in view, nothing is unimportant, nothing insignificant, nothing menial or “beneath our dignity.”MEDM March 1905, page 69.2

    E. J. W.

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