Monday, March 01, 2010

Joseph Work

Monday, March 1, 2010 -- Week of 2 Lent, Year Two
David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c. 544

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning)       64, 65 (evening)
Genesis 41:46-57
1 Corinthians 4:8-20(21) 
Mark 3:7-19a

As I read the story of Joseph's administrative action, I was struck by what a fine Biblical example this is to illustrate the good use of government, to promote the common welfare of the people and to be a blessing to the other nations.

Planning for the expected years of famine, Joseph uses the authority of the state to collect and store food during the years of plenty.  Fox News Cairo would have been screaming about the massive taxation and the oppressive bureaucracy.  If there is a famine to come, let people plan for it themselves.  The private sector can handle it better than any government agency.  This is an assault on our freedoms.  They would have slammed the immigrant foreigner Joseph with suspicion and innuendo.  "Where's his birth certificate?"  They would have hired competing dream-interpreting scientists who would have ridiculed Joseph's analysis and challenged his credentials.  Most especially, they would have preyed on people's fears.  Maybe in year-four of the seven-years-of-plenty they might have played with the greed of those who wanted that "useless" stored grain, and they would have fired up those who resented its collection enough to turn the tide in the mid-years' election and thrown Joseph out of office, opened up the grains to enjoy a great bubble of prosperity, and then been slammed when the famine hit.  No doubt, when they were starving, they would have blamed that on Joseph and the government too.

The Biblical story shows us a better way.  Working with the best available information, Joseph does what only a government can do.   He makes a systemic and comprehensive plan for the entire nation.  It is costly.  Good things always cost money.  It involves the coercive power of government to make and enforce decisions for the good of the whole.  Some rich grain barons probably had to accept less money for the grains collected by Joseph.  And always, the poor pay a greater proportionate share.  The cost of bread must have been artificially higher because some grain was kept out of circulation.  But it turned out these were wise and necessary sacrifices for the overall good of the nation.  When famine hit, they had food.  They were also a source of food for other nations, which is how Joseph's brothers ended up coming from Canaan to continue our story.

Some things only governments can do.  Some things governments do well.  We have the world's finest military.  It is a government institution.  We have safe foods and products thanks to the governmental institutions that inspect and enforce safe standards.  The Federal Aviation Administration makes sure that planes don't crash into one another.  And government pension and medical insurance programs have relieved the elderly from their former vulnerabilities. 

That's good "Joseph work."  Looking ahead for problems that will threaten a nation's people.  Planning a solution that will be comprehensive and nation wide, a solution that can't be accomplished by private enterprise.  Working for the good of the whole, not just the narrow interests of the powerful who always have their ways to influence the systems to their own advantage.  Thank God for the Joseph's of the world, who can use the power of government to solve problems only government can solve.  We need more people of character and vision to do the Joseph work in our day.



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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
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Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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