Wealth Accumulation in a Crisis
How Joseph produced Abundance in a Global Famine
We have all heard stories of some people who know how to get rich in times of crisis, but most of us seem to get poorer during difficult times. Most of the time we cannot see the crisis coming, but they always seem to come whether we are ready for them or not. Even if we could see them coming, are we ever really prepared to endure?
The history of Joseph in the bible (Genesis 37–50) may provide some insight how we can be better prepared for good times and bad times today.
Spoiled Kid, Slave, Convict, Egyptian Ruler
Through a series of events, that I highly encourage everyone to read, Joseph, being his fathers favorite son, was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and served an Egyptian officer.
- Genesis 39:1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. 2 And the Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did prosper in his hand.
Though Joseph was a servant/slave to a master that was in a completely different culture, he still found opportunities to be successful. His success was a direct blessing from God based on the actions of Joseph’s hands. As we have discussed in prior articles, God typically blesses faithful actions rather than through supernatural means. Stewardship based on God’s truth and direction tends to be noticeably more successful than any other means, as “his master saw”, which attracts additional opportunities for success.
- Genesis 39:4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and put him in charge of all that he owned. 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; so, the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.
Success from the Lord benefits the receiver as well as those surrounding.
God always keeps his promise. In this case, God was fulfilling his promise to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham’s family. By doing this, God’s desire is for Potiphar’s household to know and acknowledge His glory and turn from their own destructive ways. They seemed to acknowledge God, but they did not follow him.
Through the lies of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph lost everything again and was imprisoned.
- Genesis 39:21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the warden of the prison. 22 And the warden of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. 23 The warden of the prison did not supervise anything under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and, the Lord made whatever he did prosper.
Once again, Joseph found opportunities to be successful. He did what he could and used what he had to serve the prison warden as well as the prisoners.
Later Joseph had an opportunity to share his gift of interpreting dreams with two new prisoners that were servants of Pharaoh himself, leading to a recommendation for Joseph to help interpret a dream for Pharaoh.
- Genesis 41:15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It has nothing to do with me; God will give Pharaoh an answer for his own good.” … 25 And Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do… 28 It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do… 32 Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is confirmed by God, and God will quickly bring it about.
Josephs reputation presented a great opportunity to share his gifts with The Ruler of the known world at that time. Interestingly though, Joseph immediately acknowledged that nothing he does is by his own abilities, but God’s. Furthermore, he taught Pharaoh that God is in control and does everything for “His (God’s) own good.” God did not want to only reveal himself to an Egyptian officer, or the people in prison, he wanted the whole nation of Egypt to know him, from the top down. Joseph was His instrument to make the introduction.
- Genesis 41:33 (Joseph said to Pharaoh) So now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and appoint him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him take a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt as a tax in the seven years of abundance. 35 Then have them collect all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and have them guard it. 36 Let the food be used as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.”
God’s plan, as revealed to Joseph, was for a temporary tax, as well as appointing temporary “overseers” throughout the land, during the good years to ONLY help them endure the years of famine. The strategy was to build up a Capital Reserve to prepare for future needs and opportunities. Unfortunately, in an empire, the citizens cannot implement restrictions on their government to secure their freedom to revert back to the prior system.
- Genesis 41:38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom there is a divine spirit?” 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be in charge of my house, and all my people shall be obedient to you; only regarding the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “See, I have placed you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed ahead of him, “Bow the knee!” And he placed him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
Joseph learned God’s stewardship principles primarily from his family. We have no indication in scripture that God supernaturally blessed Joseph with special skills. We also see that God’s stewardship principles are universally applicable from personal wealth to national wealth. All true stewardship practices are applicable for everyone.
- Genesis 41:47 During the seven years of plenty the land produced abundantly. 48 So he collected all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and put the food in the cities; he put in every city the food from its own surrounding fields. 49 Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.
Resources managed & stored wisely produce abundance. However, in this situation, who were the producers? The citizens. Who were the collectors of that production? Joseph and the “Overseers” (government). The government cannot produce anything itself. It can only take from those who do produce. In many cases there really isn’t an issue for individuals to mutually work together to solve a problem for the well being of the community. But too much control and power granted to a centralized entity often grows into a problem later.
The Worlds 1st National [Food] “Banking” System
- Genesis 41:53 When the seven years of plenty which had taken place in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt suffered famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.” 56 When the famine was spread over the entire face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Then the people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.
I will say it again: government cannot produce anything on its own but must take from its citizens, with the intent to profit and redistribute the confiscated resources according to its own will. Egypt taxed it’s citizens 20% of their production for the first seven years, without anything in return, then SOLD the people their own wealth back to them for profit. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that the citizens already paid taxes, but most likely they already were. Couldn’t the citizens have done the exact same thing in their local communities, without Pharaoh’s overseers confiscating wealth away from them to enrich someone on the outside? This is a valuable lesson showing how important capital is, and the control of it, within a society.
Eventually Joseph’s family heard about the abundance of grain in Egypt. They had other forms of wealth that they wanted to trade for grain. Later they came to learn that Joseph, through God’s wisdom, was the one who orchestrated the entire Egyptian operation (Genesis 45). They also received great blessings from Pharaoh on account of his love for Joseph.
At what cost?
- Genesis 47:13 Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14 And Joseph collected all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan in payment for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph saying, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.” 16 Then Joseph said, “Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 But when that year ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord the fact that our money is all spent, and the livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. So the land became Pharaoh’s.
The Golden Rule: Those who have the “gold” make the rules.
Desperate times tend to make people do desperate things in offering whatever they have in order to survive. The Egyptian citizens willingly sold everything they owned and themselves as slaves to their ruler for survival.
Why didn’t they just eat their livestock for food? It is very likely that these ancient cultures understood the concept of Capital better than we do today. Their capital stock (livestock that is) produced other animals that would have been used for consumption, trade, work, etc. They knew if they consumed the capital, they would have no other means in the future in which to survive and thrive. Capital is the wealth we control that can be used to create more wealth.
- Genesis 47:22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, because the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land.
Friends of Pharaoh get special privileges and live very well off the production of the citizens.
- Genesis 47:23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, today I have purchased you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. 24 At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food, and for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” 25 So they said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” 26 Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, valid to this day, that Pharaoh was to have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.
Here again we see the concept of capital demonstrated. The citizens did not only eat the grain, but sowed some to produce more grain for consumption. One kernel of wheat can produce 30–50 more kernels on a wheat stock. Eating one kernel means missing out on an additional 50. What a great investment return. Though it does require labor and time to receive the return.
We also see that permanent taxes create permanent slavery. Before the citizens sold their land, possessions, and themselves to Pharaoh, it seems they didn’t really have much in taxes to pay, and they had control over their own lives and possessions. Therefore, they maintained their own individual freedoms relatively unhindered within their local communities. Now they had relinquished their individual freedom and control to the central planners, for temporary security, creating a permanent tax machine with unlimited power and control over their lives. A very dangerous temptation for anyone to be in, let alone an emperor. Sacrificing personal freedom for security will achieve neither in the end, as we will see.
Israel on the other hand prospered from their provisions.
- Genesis 47:27 Now Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous.
After Joseph died though, things started to change.
- Exodus 1:7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, otherwise they will multiply, and in the event of war, they will also join those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 11 So they appointed taskmasters over them to oppress them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they dreaded the sons of Israel. 13 The Egyptians used violence to compel the sons of Israel to labor; 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they violently had them perform as slaves.
Power granted even temporarily is rarely relinquished, but often is expanded to feed corrupt desires. Initially it seems the Egyptian citizens were the only ones enslaved by Pharaoh; but as the appetite of the empire grew, so did their need for more wealth and workers. We see Israel grew comfortable from receiving the “free benefits” of Pharaoh which bred complacency that eventually invited tyranny.
At this point Egypt was truly understanding the importance of capital. They had their slaves build more storage for more capital to further expand their operation.
Couldn’t the citizens have done this from the beginning and avoided tyrannical slavery?
The Individual’s Crisis Wealth Plan
There will ALWAYS be a “crisis”, individually or globally. It is best to start preparing for it as soon as possible.
There will ALWAYS be opportunities to accumulate wealth in good times or difficult.
The difference maker for Egypt, Israel, and each of us today is, will we build the necessary capital in times of plenty to sustain and prosper us in the times of famine? If we as individuals will not decide to control our own capital, someone else will. They will not only be more profitable, but they may not be very nice about giving us access to some of it.
If several families in our community had control over their own capital through mutually owned, dividend-paying, whole life insurance, structured for the Infinite Banking Concept, we would be able to function as our own privatized independent community banking system, to invest and serve our own community without external intervention.
The best wealth strategy is always to build Capital. Then we will be best prepared to endure difficulties and to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.
“This is what ‘Building Your Wearhouse of Wealth’ (The Infinite Banking Concept) is all about. You have almost immediate access to money to take advantage of opportunities that will surely appear. In fact, if you have a readily available pool of cash, opportunities with track you down.” — R. Nelson Nash (Building Your Wearhouse of Wealth pg. 22)