If you know the story of Joseph, you know the basic events of Genesis 40 (link). I'll still give you the quick summary, because I'm a preacher after all: that's what we do.
Joseph is in prison. He is practically running the prison, but he's still in prison. While he is handling that end of life, Pharaoh has been offended by his cupbearer and his baker. In fact, so offended he's furious. Pharaoh (king of Egypt) sends them both to prison.
While in prison, the baker and the cupbearer have dreams. Dreams, especially ones you remember, are often troubling. These guys had to add in that they believed their gods spoke through dreams and that the dreamer had to figure out: 1.) which god had spoken; 2.)what that god wanted or meant. Christians, there's a good reason to be grateful for the Bible because we don't have to figure out those two questions!
Joseph interprets their dreams: cupbearer is headed back to work. Baker? Headed to his death. Both of Joseph's interpretations prove correct even in the timing he saw. God was working through Joseph to do this: the plan involved Joseph becoming known as a dream interpreter, though he only has to pull that job one more time.
Sermons and literature abound about the ideas of the above. When I next preach this section, I'll hit many similar points about faithfulness and honesty and keeping your word.
This is not that sermon. Let's look at something else.
Take a quick look at Genesis 40:20. Go ahead, hover over the hyperlink or look it up in your Bible. What does that say?
It says that the third day, when Pharaoh pardoned the cupbearer but executed the baker, was Pharaoh's birthday. This was, apparently, Pharaoh's idea of a good time. Let's play with the lives and deaths of little people, just for fun. After all, he was the all-powerful potentate and there was no real balance on his power.
Moreover, look back at Genesis 40:1-2. What offense had these two committed? Honestly, we just cannot say. Some scholars suggest that the more important fact is that they did something to deserve imprisonment contrasted with Joseph's innocence. However, there's no indication just what they did.
Pharaohs, though, are not renowned in most histories as having been lighthearted. The idea that these two men caused some "offense" or "offended Pharaoh" could simply be that they did not bow deep enough. Perhaps they critiqued one of Pharaoh's other sycophants. It's impossible to say.
Let's look at a possible scenario, though:
The chief baker and the chief cupbearer were likely not in hereditary jobs. That is, while their families may have served at the court, it would have still taken some time and skill to attain those specific roles. Imagine the effort put forth to get where they were. As in any career, there was possibly some intrigue involved, some favors traded, all to rise to the pinnacle of the profession.
Then one day it all falls apart. Likely not at all intentionally and very likely unexpectedly the two of them fall from grace and straight into prison. Within months, one is restored and one is dead. The chief cupbearer's life had to feel a little different after this, don't you think?
Consider all that had gone on to gain the favor of Pharaoh, to attain that position. For one man it ended up costing him his life, and the other possibly spent his remaining years terrified of what would happen.
All to please a man who felt that his kind of party was one where a man is executed and his body hung up for the birds to eat.
So, as you consider what you would do for the approval of a boss, a government, or the world at large, ask yourself: Is this your kind of party?
As Christian people, we should ask ourselves: Is this our kind of party?
I know this: it's not my kind of party.