#340 Joseph, Serving with Silence

December 14, 2022

This Christmas season believers all over the world reflect on the amazing story of God entering our world as baby. It is a story filled with angels, dreams, miracles, and awe. At the center of the story we find Joseph and Mary on a journey to Bethlehem, finding a stable in which to spend the night when Jesus was born. While there are so many facets to this story and so many leadership lessons, let’s look at Joseph’s role in this story. Amazingly, we don’t have any recorded words from this man. He served with silence! (Read his story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2.)  This is not to imply that he didn’t speak, only that nothing he said is recorded. His silence challenges all serving leaders to learn to serve with silence.

Serving with silence enhances listening.

Joseph’s silence encouraged him to listen and to listen well! When he was considering how to respond to his pregnant fiancé he listened as God spoke to him in a dream. (Matthew 1:18-21). It would have been much harder for him to hear God’s voice if he had loudly declared what he was intending to do. The plan was already in his mind, but had not come out of his mouth and he was able to listen and change his plans. He listened again when his dream instructed them to flee to Egypt to avoid the wrath of king Herod. He modeled well the words that James, possibly his son, would write later, “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear” (James 1:19, MSG). Perhaps James learned this by observing his father.

Many leaders focus on what they say and spend more time speaking than listening. Josef teaches serving leaders that silence enhances listening. Serving leaders recognize that when they are speaking they are not listening.

Serving with silence elevates others.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:9-11a, NIV). Joseph was not even mentioned in the visit of the wise men! And in many other places Mary is named first and honored more. Joseph often acted as a strong leader. He took Mary to be his wife after hearing from the angel. He named Jesus and presented Him in the temple. He guided the family on international journeys. But he did it with few words, none recorded for us. His silence elevated others!

Many leaders elevate themselves by talking a lot. Serving leaders learn that when they are silent about themselves, others can shine. They are quick to give credit to others on their teams instead of drawing attention to themselves. They recognize that speaking often elevates the speaker while silence elevates others.

Serving with silence encourages humility.

After the story of Jesus in the temple at 12 years old, we don’t hear any further mention of Joseph. Mary is sometimes mentioned before Joseph and sometimes he is omitted completely. Joseph served with silence and did not protest about the lack of credit for his leadership. This silence reflects his humility. His ability to listen and elevate others shows the humble heart of a serving leader.

Many leaders speak and make sure that everyone around knows what they have accomplished and the impact they have made in the world. But serving leaders quietly and often silently lead with humility. Silence encourages humility by keeping leaders in a less visible place.

The silence of Joseph is a timely example to all serving leaders. His example certainly does not imply that we should not speak. But he challenges us to serve more by speaking less.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How often do I lead with silence? What does the life of Joseph call me to practice in my leadership?
  • Am I quicker to speak or to listen? How does that impact my leadership? What can I do to strengthen my ability to listen well?
  • Are there ways recently that I have elevated myself by speaking? What can I do to elevate others more consistently?
  • What does the amount of speaking I do reflect about my heart? Does it reflect pride or humility?                     

Merry Christmas to each of you! It’s a privilege to write these reflections and I’m grateful that you read them. Give a gift to a friend by forwarding this to them and encouraging them to subscribe!

CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU! Center for Serving Leadership has a special Christmas gift, a free offer on our Serving Leader Short Course, normally priced at $99, now FREE until Jan. 2, 2023. Click here to enroll.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll begin a series on Paul’s leadership pipeline.