Monday, August 19, 2013

Do the Right Thing

"Do the right thing" is a thought only considered when doing the wrong thing seems like an easy/better choice. Sometimes doing the wrong thing has perks, and the right thing has consequences. This is why people lie on tax returns. Truth will keep them from financial benefit. It's why people lie on dating profiles, because "divorced, has kids, unemployed, drinks regularly" will limit your responses. It's why people beef up their resumes for job's actually why we do nearly everything dishonest. We're looking for a better result than we think we'd get from walking the straight and narrow.

I have a funny story. My family and I went on vacation a few
years ago in Orlando, FL and my sisters and I wanted to take the kids to Disney World. We were a little light on funds and had heard about these deep discount ticket sellers, and decided to check them out. The guy at the booth tells us his price. Reasonable. And then he begins to "prep" us for our entry into Disney World.

Ticket Seller: (pantomimes a happy traveler marching to the beat of a drum) So you walk up to the line, happy, smiling, everything is order.

Which, of course, meant everything was actually out of order. I hadn't realized we were buying partially used multi-day passes. I expressed concern, and he assured us that everything would be fine and continued to tell us what we had to do and what he had to say to enjoy the magic that is Disney.

I was out. I couldn't do it. Needless to say, the kids never went to Disney. We had legitimate multi-day passes to Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and Harry Potter World. We'd have to be content with that.

Which leads me back to Joseph.*

We left off with Joseph being sold out of the pit into the land of Egypt. He is bought by a wealthy Egyptian official named Potiphar, whose wife is about to have a major issue with contentment.

Can you really blame her?
If you've never read Genesis 39 before, you should check it out. It's the stuff of scandalous Lifetime television. But here's the breakdown.
  1. Joseph is bought by Potiphar and becomes like the CEO of this guys business. Joseph is in charge (Genesis 39:1-5)
  2. Joseph is super hot. In my mind he's Joe Manganiello...In a tunic. But 17. With a less full beard? Or he's just Joe as he is now. That works for me.  (Genesis 39:6)
  3. Potiphar's wife is dropping everything from come-hither looks to blunt requests for a booty call. (Genesis 39:7)
  4. Joseph says NO.  (Genesis 39:8)
There's something unique about the way Joseph says no, that really resounded with me:

 “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” 
 - Genesis 39:8-9

Joseph almost waxes poetic about all the good things his master has done for him. So why then would his sin be, not against that master, but against God? Joseph recognized that everything he had was given to him by God. So then, for him to take what God had not given him was a sin against God. I think that's pretty deep. 

Joseph had a lot of power and prestige, but I at the end of the day, he was a bought and paid for slave. We start to feel so big when we get a taste of power, and we hate the thing that makes us feel like "less than". Joseph could have everything but one thing: Potiphar's wife. By having her, he could undoubtedly have more

"The tempter was his mistress, one whose favour would help him forward; and it was at his utmost peril if he slighted her, and made her his enemy. The time and place favoured the temptation." - Matthew Henry

To take her up on her offer would be to have more. To pass on it could mean her wrath and fury. Suddenly, there seems to be a pretty steep downside to "do the right thing."

Except, for Joseph there was no upside, because he was already content. Go back to v. 8 and 9 above and see where Joseph's focus is. It's on what he has. It's not on the fact that he was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, or that he was a servant of God in the service of heathens.

Joseph didn't covet (yearn to possess) that woman/more power/more glory. But...unfortunately, he was coveted. That woman probably had it good. Rich husband, nice house, and servants. It's when she started looking at what she couldn't have that trouble ensued:
  1. Potiphar's wife finagles some alone time with Joseph and demands his services. She's even grabbing at his clothes! He runs away leaving his cloak in her hands.  Genesis 39:11-12
  2. While he's gone she cries attempted rape, using the cloak as proof. Genesis 39:16-18
Off to jail he goes. At the end of chapter 39, things are looking pretty grim for Joseph. And it makes us mad. He didn't deserve this!  He held on to his integrity and ended up in a freaking dungeon! What's up with that? We'll come to that later, because Joseph's life is a lesson in "everything happens for a reason."

The big deal here is do we have a problem with contentment? Do you behave in the interest of the best result or do you refuse to go outside of God's will for what you don't have (yet)? Are we willing to do the right thing when we know there will be consequences?

*I couldn't think of anything TERRIBLE enough to be of appropriate comparison with Joseph. We lost out on Disney World. Joseph lost out on his freedom, I'm aware of this mismatch in the severity of consequences.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why are You so Jealous?!

Suddenly nauseous. Hands sweaty as I pick up my blinking phone. Nervous. Hoping (desperately) not for bad news, but rather for status quo. This is the feeling I sometimes get when someone texts me or calls me with what I'm fearing is a revelation of their super awesome happy news. It's not that I don't want them to have happy news, or to be happy in general. I just know their news will make me reflect on my lack of news. And I will start to feel sad and dejected.

True story: I once was on an e-mail chain with 3 other girls. One girl was getting a new job. Another girl was buying a new house. And the third girl was embarking upon a new and exciting relationship. I wanted to reply with:

"I also have great news! ...I just saved a ton of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico!"

The thing is, that would have been a true statement; I was legitimately hype about my $46/mo comprehensive auto insurance! But, by comparison, it simply felt too lame so I kept it to myself and simply congratulated them (honestly) on their happy news. And...then I cried myself to sleep (Psalms 6:6). Just kidding. I didn't cry...that day.

Sometimes though, the comparisons game can create a much more disastrous reaction.

Comparisons and the envy (or in some cases, the gratitude) that it makes us feel can KILL our faith and make us do things that are horrible. It made me think loosely of Joseph, who is next in the Hebrews 11 series.

There's so much to this guy, that I feel like I have to write ALL about him before I get to his Hebrews 11 verse:

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

It goes right to the end--literally to his last breath! But the beginning and the middle of the life of Joseph is really awesome. I can't fast forward Joseph! I won't!  If you've never read Genesis 37, I implore you to do so. It's pretty messed up. I'm going to give a quick rundown:
  1. Joseph is his father Jacob's golden boy and it makes his 10 brothers hate his guts- Genesis 37:4
  2. Joseph is oblivious to this hatred and tells them all about his dreams in which they are all bowing down to him. So they hate him even more - Genesis 37:5-11
  3. Joseph goes out to find his brothers tending sheep. They see him from afar and plan to kill him - Genesis 37:18-21
  4. They change their minds (killing is just too much) and decide throw him in a pit and then to sell him into slavery instead - Genesis 37:26-28
  5. They go back home and tell their father he was eaten by a wild beast. Jacob is devastated.  Genesis 37:31-35
So right off the bat, we have Joseph, a VICTIM of comparisons. Jealous of their father's love for Joseph. Jealous of his wardrobe. Jealous of his dreams. These 10 brothers are super sad and dejected, and as a result: super angry. Right here, with just this chapter, Joseph could play the "who's life sucks more" game and win hands down. But Joseph never plays! Sadly, though, just because you don't play, doesn't mean you're not in the game.

I think it's important to note that Joseph and his brothers are the origination of the tribes of Israel. These are God's people, and they are all in the game. But why?

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.- James 4:1-2

It's impossible to be both content and envious. To be both happy and jealous. We know this. But the non-spiritual manner in which we go about removing the envy and jealousy to get to contentment/happiness can be brutal.

And so begins a series within a series on the faith of Joseph. Who was content and faithful even following the pit.

But before we go there, think about who you've thrown in a pit...and why.