Monday, January 28, 2019

The Best Defense

Joseph rose to honor very quickly in Egypt, becoming the head of the household for the man whom he served. The Scriptures tell us that with Joseph in charge, Potiphar worried about nothing; he fully trusted the Hebrew slave he'd purchased, and his whole house prospered under the man. 

But it doesn't take long before Joseph finds himself in more than a little trouble. The man he serves has a wife, and the wife has wicked intent toward Joseph. It's hard to say what would have happened, how Potiphar's wife would have behaved, if Joseph had simply given in and slept with her as she requested, but he refused, and she ends up scheming to get him excommunicated from the home. 

All it takes is her word. All it takes is one scream and her tearing off of his robe, and now, she's got him. She yells and screams and cries and through her fake tears, which stem more from her rage from rejection than from any actual offense, she tells a story about that Hebrew slave that just took advantage not only of her, but of the entire household. He used his position for his own pleasure, and he's just a dirty, disgusting, low-down dog. 

So Potiphar throws him in prison. Immediately. 

Most of us reading this story think, now, wait a minute. Joseph goes from being wholly trusted, completely in charge, absolutely honored to being thrown in jail without a single chance to defend himself. We never once see Potiphar asking the slave what happened. We never see Joseph get a chance to speak in his own defense. We never hear the truth of the story coming out, except to later generations of Hebrews who have to know how it happened. 

You'd think that if this guy trusted his slave as much as he said he did, if he recognized so fully how his whole house prospered under this man, if he was truly thankful for all that Joseph was doing for him, he'd at least take a minute and ask, "Joseph - what's up, man? What gives?'

No dice. No such thing happens. Potiphar is willing to throw away every blessing he's got on the mere word of his wife, and it doesn't matter how much good Joseph's done; there's no benefit of the doubt.

The story doesn't look good for Joseph, at least not right away - and that's often true where such dynamics exist. But it's a good lesson for the rest of us, something we must take to heart and live every day. That lesson is this:

You may not always get the chance to defend yourself, so live with such integrity that you don't have to. 

It's far too easy for us to think that we can do pretty much anything that we want to do, as long as we can answer questions about it later. As long as we can explain. As long as we can show why we did what we did or, especially, why we had to do what we did. But the truth is that we're not always going to get that chance. Often, actually, we don't. Often, the world is making snap judgments about us without asking for our rationale. They see, they interpret through their own lenses, and they come to conclusions without us even realizing they were watching. The world never asks, so our reasons never matter.

Living above the board, acting with integrity, won't stop this world from making false accusations, of course. We just can't stop someone else from saying whatever they're going to say. But we can know that it's false and, when we tell the story later, we can be persons of such integrity that anyone listening knows it's false. It may not help us in the short-term, but it gives us a firm foundation of righteousness to stand on in whatever the next season of our lives brings. 

Notice that Joseph was exactly the same guy in prison as he was in Potiphar's house - loyal, humble, wise. He quickly rose to become the head of the prison, taking charge of other prisoners. With him at the helm, the prison warden worried about nothing.... 

That's integrity. 

And you never once hear it asked in prison, never once hear it talked about, never once see it reminded what Joseph was accused of. Not once. Nobody's talking about "Joseph the Accused Rapist" because look at him - look at the integrity, the honesty, the righteousness of this man. Everything prospers under him. 

He never got to defend himself, but he never had to. May we live with such integrity ourselves. 

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