What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? James 4:1 NIV
His brothers’ feelings toward him were intense, and not in a good way, for “they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”1 So, when Joseph dreamed of them bowing down to him, “they hated him all the more,”2 then after voicing their disdain, they hated him yet “all the more”!3 Certainly, he’d had his bratty moments, as when tattling on them to their father,4 but sibling comeuppance usually fits the indiscretion, so what could possibly drive his brothers to plan Joseph’s murder before opting instead to sell the 17-year-old into slavery? In a word, favoritism. Their father Jacob was partial to Joseph, his favorite son from his favorite wife, a measure of rejection for his brothers and ultimately an unfairness to Joseph, for any imprudence on his part, however mild, became an accelerant to the resentment raging in their soul.
Sin separates. James tells us the divisions among us emerge from the desires within us.5 Envy resents others for their good fortune, and there is distance. Lust objectifies others, indexing their inherent value to our impulsive desire, and there is contempt. Rage bursts our inner restraints to lash out at others, lest our fragile pride be toppled or our deepest fears realized, and accusations presume to know the heart of another. In our me-first world, unity is unnatural and harmony easily broken, so human-trafficking would not be Joseph’s last injustice. In fact, it portended his suffering through a steady stream of wrongs—sexual assault, false witness, wrongful imprisonment, and abandonment—that, over the next 13 years, would sweep him further into relational isolation.
Most of us have not experienced the degree of injustice that Joseph suffered, but sin—both that which we inflict and that which we endure—has brought us discord and division. Whether we’ve retaliated against others or isolated within ourselves, whether we’ve shut out or shut down, unity has become a casualty. Yet here we take courage from the story of Joseph, for despite his circumstances, “the Lord was with Joseph,”6 not in a sense of delivering him from difficulties, but in a far more powerful way—by humbling him through his trials and unto reconciliation, and in the process, blessing Joseph for God’s higher purposes and our greater good. It is in this love that God calls us, too, to walk the selfless path that leads to reconciliation, oneness, and God’s good pleasure.
Father, you love me beyond measure or understanding. In this great comfort, may I gratefully and humbly walk the supernatural path to reconciliation and oneness through Jesus Christ, in whom all things hold together.7 In His name I pray. Amen.
1 Genesis 37:4
2 Genesis 37:5
3 Genesis 37:8
4 Genesis 37:3
5 James 4:1
6 Genesis 39:2, 23
7 Colossians 1:17