Joseph Part 3
My son is now three and a half going on thirteen. I am enjoying every moment of his development and growth but, now he’s getting smarter, he is facing more complex decisions about whether or not to obey his parents or take what he wants. He has multiple allergies which make eating for him quite difficult, but recently we managed to find him some cupcakes. Since then I have been woken by the song, “I want my minion cakes” (for some reason he calls them minion cakes, only he knows why), to which we respond “no, not for breakfast (obviously).” One morning my wife caught him chewing through the box of them. When he was accosted he simply replied; “I said please.”
Sometimes resisting the temptation not only seems personally unfulfilling, but it can actually lead to serious consequences for us.
All of us face temptation as we grow up and the teenage years can be particularly challenging. And although the objects that tempt us do change, the response to them should remain the same. If anything is captivating our attention to the degree we become obsessed, it probably isn’t good for us. In contrast, I’ve never heard my son sing a sweet song about broccoli which articulates his desire for Its’ beneficial combination of vitamins, iron and protein. Nor do I hear a teenager sharing the joy they experience in their abstinence. Doing the right thing, avoiding temptation, engaging with what is right and good can at times feel like the boring thing to do, the unsatisfying response. Sometimes resisting the temptation not only seems personally unfulfilling, but it can actually lead to serious consequences for us.
Joseph is a brilliant example of someone who not only said no to what he desired, but who suffered terribly as a result. The young man sold into slavery by his brothers is now invited into the bed of Potiphar’s wife and is presented with a terrible choice. Sleep with his master’s wife and maintain his position (albeit compromised) or say no and destroy his career and future. The option of saying no is made even more difficult when we consider Joseph is likely just out of his teens and still a virgin. To make matters worse Potiphar’s wife is persistent and consistent in her invitation until one day the situation comes to a head;
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” (Genesis 39: 11-12a)
Finding themselves alone, Potiphar’s wife seizes the moment and quite literally seizes him to pull into an embrace. Joseph’s response is instinctual; run!
As a resident of a Western nation, I owe a great deal of my ethical understanding to the foundations of Christianity. ‘Temptation’ is a highly religious word in many ways, with all kinds of religious imagery and ideas attached to it such as the Catholic confession. But as Christianity is no longer the articulated basis for our morality as a nation, the assumption that we should resist temptation is dying. Rather than simply running from what we would previously assume as harmful and not good, we now struggle to find any reason to run. Instead, we stop, have a little taste and ask ‘why not?’
We must prepare the answer to the ‘why not’ question beforehand because reason and logic have little place in the human psyche during a sexually charged encounter.
When we find ourselves alone with our temptation, particularly if the temptation is actively calling us, like with sexual interactions and affairs, the ‘why not’ answer is essential. We must prepare the answer to the ‘why not’ question beforehand because reason and logic have little place in the human psyche during a sexually charged encounter. I learned the truth of that in my teens! Answering the ‘why not’ question afresh gives us a reason to resist.
So what is Joseph’s ‘why not’ answer? Simple, God has given me all of this, He has brought me to where I am and I don’t want to betray His generosity and His trust. When we consider our lives as Christians, this side of the cross, we have an even greater reason to resist. We have seen the lengths God went to, to spare us from His right judgement upon the cross, instead, He took the punishment upon Himself. As a result, we now live in freedom but at the cost of our suffering saviour. With that in mind, with that image of Jesus on the cross as our focus, what else could compare to that kind of love, to our God? But we also have the hope of a changed life here and now. With Jesus’ resurrection comes new life, not only in the future but here and now. A hope not only for freedom from chains but a hope for the freedom to resist and to be who we were created to be. To be truly human once more.
But it begins by asking ‘why not’ and ends with the risen Jesus and His nail-scarred hands.