In the Old Testament, we find the story of Joseph. He was one of the 12 sons of Jacob (later renamed Israel). So Joseph was apparently not liked by his brothers who sold him into slavery. (That would certainly make for an awkward Thanksgiving dinner). Here is part of his story found in Genesis chapter 39.
Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 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. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had…Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
Our men’s bible study was discussing this passage of Scripture last week and I was suddenly struck by Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife. He starts by talking about Potiphar and how he trusted Joseph and how much he (Joseph) was in charge of and how he had been blessed. But was comes next was what caught me off guard. Joseph says, “How then can I do this…and sin against GOD?” He doesn’t say “sin against Potiphar,” no; he is concerned in that situation of sinning against God. It seems to me that Joseph understood that in this situation – in his “employment” with Potiphar – he was still operating under God’s will and guidance. He understood that the trust placed in him and the position he had attained where all do directly to God and that violating the conditions of that trust was a sin against God, not man.
What impressed me was Joseph’s perspective on his life. For him, everything flowed from God. Every blessing, every turn of life, every opportunity, every difficulty had just one source. He recognized that any favor he may have in the eyes of his “employer” was a result of God’s favor on him. So when presented with an opportunity to take advantage of his status; when he was given a chance to look out for himself, to take what he could take, to think of himself first and what he deserved, he instead acknowledged his dependence on God.
I took this as an opportunity to examine my attitude to the various events in my life, my job, my relationships. Instead of framing things in terms of what I need or what I deserve or what I have suffered, how about framing things in terms of God’s presence in my life. Instead of taking any opportunity I can to whine about my situation or my boss or my church, shouldn’t I work, act and live as if I am directly accountable to Him? Because I actually am accountable directly to Him! And when I am tempted to live for myself, let me, like Joseph say, “How then can I do this…and sin against God?” It would certainly change my assessment of life.