Message: Moral and Ethical Faithfulness As a Slave
Preacher: Sam Leonor
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Ame Fowler
Live Beyond: Chelsea Mensink
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Genesis 39:1-20 in The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: At the beginning of this chapter Joseph demonstrated impeccable character qualities and received ample promotion. What impresses me even more than his success is that Joseph did the right thing even when it resulted in severe punishment at the end of the same chapter. Now, we know the ending of the whole book (Genesis) and it is made clear to us how God used Joseph’s imprisonment for a “chance” encounter with Pharaoh’s butler and baker, both of whom just happened to need their dreams interpreted. But none of that was immediately apparent. In the midst of the drama, the events transpiring seemed random and nonsensical. This is not to say it was ever God’s will for calamity to befall Joseph (God has many ways of fulfilling his plan—the butler and baker could have been guests at Potiphar’s house), but we can be hopeful no matter how dire a situation appears, God can use any set of circumstances.
Since the 90s, the so-called purity movement among evangelicals in America has focused on virginity as the ultimate goal for young Christians prior to marriage. Although well intentioned, it failed spectacularly in its objective. From a percentage standpoint, there is no significant difference between unmarried Christian couples engaged in physical intimacy and society at large. I believe the purity movement was completely misguided by promoting virginity the same way society promotes sex—as a desireable consumer good. Virginity was marketed as a superior product to premarital sex because it offered all kinds of benefits. The list included freedom from shame or guilt, no sexually transmitted infections, and most importantly—an amazing wedding night leading to “happily ever after” marital bliss. Restraint would be rewarded. As we now see in hindsight, this led to all kinds of devastation and disillusionment. You can read more about “purity culture” here.
Obviously, Joseph’s circumstances as a slave, grabbed by his master’s wife when there was nobody else is in the house, were drastically different from, let’s say, an infatuated teenage couple dating in our day who find themselves home alone. The power differential was enormous. Joseph was victimized. We are never told whether or not he was even attracted to Potiphar’s wife. Joseph’s decision to resist an affair with a married woman was not based on any type of cost-benefit analysis. He tells Potiphar’s wife the specific reasons he couldn’t do what she wanted. He would not betray his master’s trust. Not because he wanted yet another reward, but because he viewed the trust placed in him and responsibility given to him as a sacred calling (or vocation). Joseph’s loyalty to Potiphar was the result (fruit) of his loyalty to God. His ethic was based on concern for others. He was concerned about the impact his actions would have on others (in this case Potiphar). Harming others was a sin regardless of whether or not there were any benefits or penalties in store for Joseph. Joseph never approached this situation as a consumer weighing all of his options, but as a servant. A servant of God. This was his true vocation and it was expressed in how he lived. What he did (or did not do) was based on who he was.
Recalibrate: Even though Joseph did the right thing, he was severely punished. Why do we often assume faithfulness will be rewarded? When it comes to sexual “purity,” is there a reward for restraint? Is there a reward for being good?
Respond: Today, ask God to reveal areas in your life negatively impacted by a consumer mindset.
Research: This chapter reminds me of another great hero who was severely punished for doing the right thing out of concern for others. You can read my article on Dirk Willems here.
Remember: “Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph. He saw that the Lord made Joseph successful in everything he did” (Genesis 39:3, ICB).
Sam Millen is the pastor at Anacortes Adventist Fellowship in Washington State. After living in five countries on three continents (and five states), he feels at home on Orcas Island with his wife and three kids.
Play a game of catch with your little one. This may seem like a simple task but if your child has not yet learnt to throw the ball back this is a very one-sided game. Our granddaughter Zoe has started playing this game by herself, calling out “catch” as she throws the ball and no one is there. We choose what we give away and what we hold on to. Choose to give all that is good no matter what the circumstance.
Do you remember Joseph’s dreams? God showed him who he would become. Joseph had years of character building and trusted that what God said was true. When God called, Joseph was ready. Then, Joseph was given a bigger job to do, and he was determined to be faithful to God no matter what. When we choose to serve God, we start a chain reaction. Get some dominos or books. See how many you can place upright, close together in a line before they fall down. Once you have several in a line, push the first one. What happens to the rest of them? This one action affects everything after it. As we serve God, everything we do, whether it’s good or bad, has an affect on the world around us. When we choose to follow God, He is with us every step and helps us become more like Him.
When I was a senior in high school, I went to volleyball camp in the summer. One day, everyone showed up but the school had cancelled the camp and there were no adults to lead out. So my friend said, “Let’s take all the girls and walk to the volleyball court in that gated community over there!” I told her it was a bad idea but she didn’t listen, leading the twenty girls, ages 12-18, away. I knew I had to make sure the girls stayed safe so I stayed in the back to make sure no one was left behind.
An hour later, after climbing a fence and crossing streets, we arrived. We had to call all the parents to come get their kids. And when we got back to school, oh no—the coach was so angry at us! How could we be so irresponsible and take all those girls away without adults! Even though it wasn’t my fault, I had to be scolded and take the blame too. That wasn’t fair because I had tried to do the right thing!
When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’ wife, he said “no” and did the right thing. But because the wife lied, he got in so much trouble! Not just scolding, but prison! Sometimes, doing the right thing isn’t rewarded. In fact, we may be wrongfully punished. Has there been a time when you were unfairly treated? How did you react?
In grade school, the one thing that is better than recess are substitute teachers. Only with a substitute can you get away with things that you normally wouldn’t be able to get away with, control lectures because they don’t know what they are talking about, or maybe even stay outside for recess longer. One time in the seventh grade, we had a substitute teacher who was a bit older and had been known to fall asleep in the classroom. Now, the cool thing to have in the seventh grade were Gatorade water bottles. You know the kind you can just squeeze into your mouth? Well, it all started when the sub left the classroom and one of us squirted one person, who squirted back. This quickly escalated into the entire class breaking out into a full-blown water bottle fight. Water flew across the classroom, getting not only our clothes, but our desks and carpet, drenched with water. The teacher came in and promptly scolded us, and told us that they would inform our teacher of our misbehavior. Now this would have never happened if the sub was in the room. Rather we thought we could get away with it because no adult was watching. It is easy to hold ourselves to a high standard when people are watching, but when no one is looking is often when our guard comes down. Holding yourself to a higher standard means to live a quality life even when no one is watching. What are some ways that you can live a quality life even when no one is watching?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Ame Fowler has fifteen years of youth and children’s ministry experience and has served as a leader with TOP kids. She and her husband enjoy ministry through coffee, and live in Chattanooga, TN.
Chelsea Mensink serves as the family ministries director at Crosswalk Church in Redlands, California. She is a delightful and talented children’s pastor who just oozes fun and love like a squished Twinkie.
Emily Ellis is a junior studying theology at Walla Walla University and interning at the Eastgate Seventh-day Adventist Church.