I have this pet peeve. Not really a peeve, but it’s far more fun then my other pet peeves.
Nearly every time I ever hear the tale of Joseph, somebody says, Joseph should have kept his mouth shut. Joseph shouldn’t have been bragging. Joseph’s father shouldn’t have been playing favorites. Who did Joseph think he was, walking around in that coat of many colors? Joseph shouldn’t have been so uppity. Joseph should have kept his dreams to himself.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing that people talk about it. One of the wonderful things about the bible is that it enables us to feel these things, to relate to the stories, to incorporate them into our own lives. So if you think of Joseph as that whiny little brother, daddy’s favorite, wearing his fancy coat, always telling his brothers they’ll bow down to him someday, I’m not judging. Maybe God is revealing something to you there that He wants you to understand.
Today I caught about two minutes of Max Lucado speaking about Joseph. Sure enough he said, “Joseph should have kept his dreams to himself.” It actually doesn’t say that in the bible! It is not written. Just saying. Max went on to say something about Joseph having a dysfunctional family, and how his father was playing favorites.
I can’t really yell at Max Lucado, but I so wanted to say, “Now hold up here!” Even if Joseph truly had a dysfunctional family that doesn’t mean Joseph should have changed, anticipated their negative responses, and adapted his own behavior to accommodate their dysfunction. If Joseph had been all passive and meek, that may not have helped at all! For all we know, his brothers may have killed him outright instead of throwing him in a pit.
Joseph is not the bad guy here. Joseph is actually doing exactly what we would hope a normal, healthy kid is going to do, share his dreams, talk about what God has been teaching him. A normal, healthy family response, requiring a bit of humility I’m sure, would have been to say, “What a wonderful dream, Joseph! I’m excited, I might get to be the brother of someone important!”
I know, I know, few families are always humble, loving, full of grace towards one another, possessing no rivalries, I’m just saying they should be. That should be the ideal. So, if you are tempted to throw one of your family members in a pit or have them sold into slavery or something, that is not ideal. Just saying.
It’s kind of interesting to me, this concept of Joseph as the brother who should have kept his mouth shut and Joseph’s dad as the father failure of the year is a fairly recent, modern translation. Why did Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery? Well, because he was obnoxious, the family was dysfunctional, dad played favorites, there were a lot of wives…..
Excuses, explanations, more excuses, bad childhoods, dysfunction…..next thing you know we’re going to have Joseph’s brothers in therapy because it’s not really their fault, they’re just good guys with some unresolved emotional issues, communication problems…..maybe they just need some more job training? If they had money maybe they wouldn’t have been so tempted to sell their own little brother……
I’m not really yelling at Max Lucado here, he’s just a good target today because while watching his handling of the Joseph story I discovered why this always starts to get on my nerves. We’re erasing sin, as if it doesn’t exist, as if even our own envy is someone else’s fault, as if Joseph’s brothers couldn’t possibly have just been jerks. Yes, jerks! They wanted what they wanted and they didn’t care about anything else. Especially not Joseph’s feelings! Who is completely responsible for what happened? The jerks who threw Joseph into the pit and then sold him into slavery.
People can be jerks. Just jerks, that simple. Most of us can on some level. There really are no excuses. There can be forgiveness and redemption however, but we’ll never get there if we insist on constantly blaming everything and everyone but ourselves.