We all know this part of Joseph’s story, recorded in the following passage:
It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." But he refused and said to his master's wife, "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?” As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. 11 Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. She caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me!" And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. (Gen. 39:7-12 New American Standard Bible) Note: emphases are my own.
We live in a day and age when it is not easy to hear people justify anything under the pretext of, “It is complicated/it is a grey issue/it is difficult.” When people are hard-pressed, they fight back with “you do not understand/you have never been in my situation/you do not know what you are talking about.” Unfortunately, they do not mention God and what God’s Word is saying concerning the situation. We have come up with a gazillion reasons to justify disobeying God.
Joseph would have been justified if he committed adultery with Potiphar’s wife because of the following reasons:
1) Joseph was far away from home, sold by his brothers. Why did God allow this terrible thing to happen to him?
2) Joseph had no support from the local church. He was all alone in the house of Potiphar, and there were no other people there worshiping God.
3) He was living in a culture that was occupied with worshiping idols, and it would have been okay for him to sleep with his master’s wife.
4) There was no regular Bible study for Joseph to be reminded of what God’s law required of him.
5) He was lonely and homesick. The companionship of his master's wife would have been a good distraction.
6) His master was gone most of the time. His wife was lonely and needed somebody to be with her.
7) She was his mistress and had power over him, for Joseph was a slave and had no rights whatsoever.
8) Joseph would have been justified, for it was his mistress who came up with the proposal. She was the one who insisted. Joseph would have said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. My mistress has given me instruction, and I am just obeying orders. I am a slave, and all I have to do is to obey.”
9) Joseph was in charge of everything, and adding his mistress to the list of responsibilities would have been merely a call to duty.
10) To be captain of the guard, his master Potiphar had to give up his manhood. In other words, he could not perform sexually. Therefore, his wife had legitimate sexual needs that had to be met.
11)Out of compassion and pity for his starved mistress, Joseph could have met her needs. What is wrong with meeting a genuine need?
12)There was nobody in the house the day his mistress grabbed him. This implies nobody would have known about it.
13)Joseph minded his own business, and this woman kept asking day in and day out for him to be with her. He did not dress in a compromising way, he did not tempt the woman, but she kept begging him. He could not leave the house because he was a slave.
14)Joseph was young, handsome, and had sexual emotions that needed to be satisfied for he had no wife at that time.
15)Sleeping with his mistress would have empowered him all the more and would have felt good as well.
16)He might have gained his freedom because once he met his mistress’s needs, she could talk with his master about releasing him.
17)Joseph had no mentors or role models to advise him.
18)God will forgive him after he sins for God understands.
19)The temptation was too much for this young man.
20)Others were doing the same thing.
Before Joseph was even sold to Egypt, he reported his brother's misconduct to their father. This is an indication that Joseph was God-fearing from childhood.
No wonder when he was tempted in Egypt by his master’s wife, he refused to allow his feelings or circumstances to lead him.
Nobody would have blamed a slave that got seduced by his owner because he was not expected to say no. But Joseph understood what King Solomon will say a few thousand later concerning committing adultery:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. Proverbs 5:1-6 (NIV)
Committing adultery is not only a sin against God but against oneself. How many people do you know throughout history that have been ruined by adultery?
Joesph would have ruined his dreams if he fell into this trap. Even though he was young and had sexual needs, he refused to let his needs trump God’s law. How many people today disobey God’s law just because it feels good, or they have the desire to do whatever their body tells them to do?
If you dare to warn them of the harm they are bringing on themselves, you will be accused of passing judgment. This is not true because God’s laws are not generated by any of us.
The laws are given for our good, and when we break them, we will suffer the consequences.
You may be wondering what fearing God and obeying his laws have to do with racism and the excesses of ethnocentricism. The connection is that if you have a disregard for God’s law in one area, you will not necessarily obey God’s law in other areas. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers because first he understood that forgiveness is mandated, just as not committing adultery is. Therefore, learning how to resist the temptation to commit adultery empowered Joseph to forgive his brothers.
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