As the Egyptian pharaoh did with Joseph, the king of Babylon placed Daniel and his friends “over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Dan. 2:49). What is on display in these Old Testament examples is what the Apostle Paul admonishes in Philippians 2:15: “That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
In his correspondences with the various churches with which he interacted, the Apostle Paul is clear on the fact that God endows individuals within the body of Christ with skills and abilities for the purpose of edifying the whole body. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, he says it is generally the case that the manifestation of spiritual gifts are for “the common good.” And by common good in that context, he means the body of Christ either at large or locally. In Ephesians 4:16, he describes the church as a human body with individual parts that are “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped.” And we are further told that when each joint is “working properly,” it “makes the body grow, so that it builds itself up in love.” This is part of the beauty of the body of Christ. And one of the benefits of being a part of that body is that the mercies and love of God, which are located in Christ, are conveyed to us and nurtured within us and through the agency and giftedness of those with whom we are in fellowship.
However, the testimony of Scripture is that throughout redemptive history, God’s people have used their gifts not just for those within the covenant community but for others as well. In fact, Abraham is told at the time of his calling that he will “be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). Ultimately, Abraham is a blessing to “all the families of the earth” because in him we have the line from which Christ comes. But in Genesis 14, Abraham takes his army of 318 trained servants and defeats a coalition of nations that had taken his nephew Lot captive. The pagan kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah also benefit from Abraham’s victory.
There are two other Old Testament examples illustrated with even more clarity. In the first place, there is the case of Joseph in the book of Genesis after he had been sold into slavery and brought to Egypt. While Joseph was a servant in Potiphar’s house, we read:
The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. (Gen. 39:2–3)