“Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said ‘Lie with me.’” Genesis 39:6b-7
Advertisements beckon to us all the time about how to be more beautiful, more attractive, more appealing in a romantic way. But that kind of allure can also cause problems. Apparently, Joseph is good looking. That’s on top of being competent and trustworthy and hard working. So, he has a lot going for him. But unfortunately, Joseph’s appeal is not lost on his owner’s wife.
Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. Talk about a compromising situation. Potiphar is so pleased with Joseph and has given him much authority and responsibility in the household. Now Potiphar’s wife wants “work” from Joseph. This is a tough situation for Joseph. If he refuses the come-ons from Potiphar’s wife, she may become angry. She may influence her husband against Joseph. She could get him in trouble (which she later does). You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the boss’ spouse in any situation.
But Joseph does not want to betray his owner, his master, the one who has entrusted so much to him, namely, Potiphar. How could Joseph possibly do this? He sees it as a sin not only against Potiphar but also against God. What is he to do?
We, too, can find ourselves in these kinds of dilemmas. We are asked to do something dishonest at work. We know it is wrong, but if we don’t cooperate, we may be fired. If we are fired, where will the money come from for the mortgage, food, and healthcare? So what is worse – to do something dishonest at work or drag the family into poverty?
Maybe we are accused of doing something that we did not do. But to get out of it, we would have to divulge who did do it. This person may be a friend of ours. Then we are getting our friend in trouble. We don’t want to do that, either. What is the best option?
Jesus faced a similar dilemma in the story of his temptation in the wilderness. The devil offers him complete power over the realm. Think of the good Jesus could do with that power. All the people that could be helped. That kind of power would enable Jesus to do a lot of good and for many people. But to gain that power, Jesus must bow down and worship the Devil. Jesus will not do this. So he gives up the power that the devil is offering, that he could use for good.
If we have money, then we have to think about making it and spending it ethically. If we don’t have money, we have to think about how to provide for ourselves in ways that are legitimate and honest. Each situation presents its problems.
It is not always easy to sort out the best way to approach such dilemmas. Lent is a time for us to think about what kinds of compromises we are making. It is a time to reflect on our choices. It is a time to examine the consequences of our options. It is a time to sort out what is truly right even if it is not easy and leads to further complications.
We want to do what it good and right and true. But is is not always easy. Doing the right thing can often cause problems just like doing the wrong thing. May we have the courage to face our choices with honesty and clarity. May we not just take the easy way out. Amen.