Proper14; Pentecost 10; Genesis 37; 8/9/20
Reading the Genesis story I am reminded of the music and comedy duo, The Smother’s Brothers and Tommy’s come back line to his younger brother Dick, “Mom always liked you best.” We’ve all heard of sibling rivalry. My brother and I had it until I wised up when I was in 8th grade. I figured that we could accomplish more as allies than as adversaries and so our relationship has been tight up to this very day. Since then I’ve been fascinated by the Biblical accounts of families. The Old Testament is full of them.
I sometimes wonder how God managed to choose them as messed up as they were. But I realized that we’re all messed up in some way and we are the only ones God has to work with. Families can be phenomenal means of grace to one another while others create suffering. With as much as we know about creating healthy families, there is still a mystery to how kids turn out the way they do.
Today, we take a look at All in the Family. Not with Archie and Meathead, but with Joseph and his brothers.
But first we have to look at Isaac and Rebekah who raised Jacob and Esau because the favoritism shown by Rebekah towards Jacob was definitely passed on to Jacob in his playing favorites with Joseph. It’s funny that the hero in family systems is usually the first born. But Jacob, Joseph and later on with David, they were the youngest. God tends to look at the heart instead of birth order. God while embracing them also addressed the flaws of each of them while leading them to do the work God had given them to do.
Was Jacob responsible for setting up the split between Joseph and his 11 brothers? Joseph, the youngest, was his beloved Rachel’s first child. Today, children being born in second marriages sometimes lead the older children to feel displaced. Jacob, who was given so much spiritual insight throughout his encounters with God, appears to be clueless about raising children in a family system. Yet God works through these deficits including the brothers’ jealousy to shape Joseph for the good he would do in Egypt and Israel during the famine, which included feeding his brothers and their families.
The dreams Joseph was given by God directed him to practice stewardship of saving for the famine. Joseph’s dreams, a sign of divine favor, was a capacity that his brothers didn’t have. There is a developmental phase in childhood that many humans do not outgrow in their adulthood. This is the belief that “life must be fair.”
Remember when you were younger, thinking or saying “life isn’t fair.” Remember a parent or grandparent who had grown out of that belief saying, “Life isn’t always fair.” God did not create egalitarianism—where everyone gets an equal outcome. People created this delusion out of the belief that life should be fair. God loves each us of equally but did not create us all the same as St. Paul would later teach us that we are all given different gifts to build up the kingdom of God. I would often burn with jealousy about people who could apply mathematics until I realized that I was given gifts to do many things which others cannot.
The belief that life must be fair or egalitarian with equal outcomes is an illusion which manifests into many aberrations such as Karl Marx’s Conflict Theory. Void of spiritual foundation and contrary to Natural Law, Marxism’s promise of a utopia has throughout history revealed its magical thinking resulting in the suppression of the human soul, creating suffering and misery.
Suffering cannot be escaped through a political system but transcended through spiritual transformation.
Life isn’t fair. It’s hard to grow out of this belief. This doesn’t mean that the church doesn’t reach out to help others grow into the full persons God has created them to be or to those who are in need.
Jacob continues his doting on Joseph with a special coat with sleeves that his brothers didn’t receive.
It’s difficult to discern whether Joseph developed a sense of believing he was more “special” than his brothers because of the coat or other reasons such as—
- Not working with his brothers with the sheep herds.
- Jacob sent Joseph 13 miles away to Dothan to deliver a message to his brothers.
- Could Joseph’s brothers have been irritated that Joseph didn’t have to work like they did?
Whatever the reasons, the brothers decided to kill Joseph now that he was out of his father’s reach and make it look like an accident. Reuben, as the eldest, stands up to his brothers, diverting the plan to putting Joseph in a dry water pit, thinking that he could secretly come to rescue him later. But that was foiled when the Midianites found Joseph, kidnapped him and sold him to the Ishmaelite’s who took Joseph to Egypt and sold him into slavery before Reuben could return to release him.
It is important to point out that Reuben exhibited great courage to stand up to 10 angry brothers. Reuben’s example begs us to ask how we stand against evil when we are outnumbered. Where do we find the courage to resist evil and discern the wisdom to navigate through it? With all the evil going on in the world at this time and threats against any who will stand in evil’s wake, what direction might the Spirit be giving us at this time?
God has nothing to work with but our human spirits and flesh and blood.
Let us be God’s hands, feet and voice—making sure that we are listening to God instead of the crowd.