Destructive emotions can build up to an explosion … in today’s scripture, the brothers hated Joseph because he was their fathers favorite, Gen. 37:4, then Gen. 37:5 says Joseph told them a dream, “and they hated him all the more.” Another dream and the same thing in Gen. 37:8, “they hated him all the more.” Finally in Gen. 37:11 ~~ they were JEALOUS. A spiral…
Jealousy leads the brothers to doing things they don’t believe in like hurting their father. Out of control emotions always have unintended consequences…Many people that sit in jail are there because of out of control passions… I bet many have testimonies about people we hurt that got in our path…Captain Ahab is the main character in the book Moby Dick. He is singularly focused on hunting and destroying the white whale who had taken his leg. As the last chapters unfold, Ahab says no to helping another ship locate a son lost at sea ( sidenote: the name of that ship is “the Rachel”, a reference to the mother of Joseph. For key on Rachel see Jer. 31:14-16). Ahab says no to searching for the son so he can continue his selfish pursuit…when I read Moby Dick, one new word stood out used dozens of times of Ahab: mono-maniac…. So focused on revenge he saw nothing else, he put his ship and crew in danger, refused to search for a lost son … actions from out of control passions will always hurt people we don’t intend… the blinders are on… the brothers jealousy leads to division, /living a lie, / sticky situation later with Joseph….
This message is about overcoming any dangerous emotion; for the brothers they are jealous. What does it mean to be jealous? Food for thought from a few quotes:
- “It is not love that is blind, but jealousy.” Lawrence Durrell, that speaks to the blinders we put on when we get consumed by out of control emotions.
- A silly Rodney Dangerfield quote about how crazy jealousy can become: “My wife's jealousy is getting ridiculous. The other day she looked at my calendar and wanted to know who May was.”
- A popular quote showing how jealousy is the loss of perspective: “You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars” ~ Gary Allan
- A simple definition of jealousy: “You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.” It’s self centered, everything is about me…
- Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time. ~ Drake, makes sense to me…
Responses to Jealousy: any out of control emotion, can cause us to compromise our convictions, turn us into people so that we don’t even like ourselves, create monsters, stress, division, competition, winners and losers… the truth is that there are no winners…
Responses to jealousy: How does the emotion show itself. Genesis 37 is the classic drama of jealousy: The brother spiral downward ~~ hate to more hate to more hate to jealousy…. Joseph seems to no longer be a shepherd, but Jacob sends him to get a report about the brothers. The sight of Joseph causes the brothers to rage…
There is division with Reuben attempting to moderate the plan…READ Gen. 37:21-22… even though Reuben apparently wants Joseph to go back, he compromises when he suggests selling Joseph instead READ Gen. 37:25-26. I can’t get over the fact that they ate a meal while Joseph is in the pit… what does that say about their character? Jealousy caused the brothers to conspire, lie, take money… they caused their father deep grief… Nobody wins. When you act out on your out of control emotions, nobody wins…
I want to share a few stories I found, no particular order, other situations of jealousy, some good, some not. The first story is silly, not sure what the enduring lesson is other than jealousy can be taken to extreme lengths…
After a long illness, a woman died and arrived at the Gates of Heaven. The gatekeeper came by and the woman said to him “This is such a wonderful place! How do I get in?” “You have to spell a word,” the gatekeeper told her. “Which word?” the woman asked. “Love.” The woman correctly spelled “Love” and the gatekeeper welcomed her into Heaven.
Six months later the gatekeeper asked the woman to watch the Gates of Heaven for him that day. While the woman was guarding the Gates of Heaven, her husband arrived. “I’m surprised to see you,” the woman said. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been doing well since you died,” her husband told her. “I married the beautiful young nurse who took care of you while you were ill. Then I won the lottery. I sold the little house you and I lived in and bought a big mansion. And my wife and I traveled all around the world. We were on vacation and I went water skiing today. I fell, the ski hit my head, and here I am. By the way, how do I get in?”
“You have to spell a word,” the woman told him. “Which word?” her husband asked.
Here’s a good true story:
For many years Sir Walter Scott was the leading literary figure in the British Empire. No one could write as well as he. Then the works of Lord Byron began to appear, and their greatness was immediately evident. Soon an anonymous critic praised his poems in a London Paper. He declared that in the presence of these brilliant works of poetic genius, Scott could no longer be considered the leading poet of England. It was later discovered that the unnamed reviewer had been none other than Sir Walter Scott himself!
One of the amazing Bible testimonies of averting jealousy is from John the Baptist. He appears on the public stage before Jesus, the crowds flock to John; John does everything he can to point to Jesus as more important than himself. John is becomes very popular! As Jesus bursts on the scene, the disciples of Jesus and of John squabble. John the Baptist settles the matter in John 3:30 when John says of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” I often think of an old translation of that phrase I ran across decades ago: He will wax and I will wane!... Practice that attitude and jealousy will flee!
I love the advice in Acts from one of the leaders against the Christians. This takes place after the death of Jesus. To the surprise of the anti-Jesus religious establishment, after they kill Jesus, the movement spreads. The leaders in Jerusalem are confounded. Gamaliel, a great teacher, shares wonderful wisdom: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting God” (Acts 5:38-39)
How you respond to jealousy is huge. Gamaliel’s advice is right on… let it go… just ask God to bless or curse the other person according to God’s will… When you act out on jealousy nobody wins:
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.
Overcoming Jealousy: Dozens of times I’ve heard the story of Joseph and how his brothers become jealous and sell him into slavery… My mother my first teacher….
As I studied for this message, I saw a detail I never noticed before: The brothers aren’t the only one who respond to Joseph’s dreams. Jacob, the father, has an emotional response! Jacob’s response is so simple and uneventful it is almost invisible. Look back to the part of the story after Joseph arrogantly tells about the dreams. READ Gen. 37:10. Jacob hears the same dream. He concludes Joseph is acting arrogant… Jacob is probably disappointed. Maybe he is even wondering what kind of a monster he helped create by giving Joseph the ornamental coat and showing the whole world Joseph was his favorite son…. Now comes the kicker. READ Gen. 37:11. Two vastly different responses.
Years ago when Sally and I were in S.F. we were involved with a Christian run crisis pregnancy center. Some of their literature detailed possible consequences to the question of deciding to have sex before marriage or not. On one side of the ledger was YES. So then the next question was will you use protection or not, Yes or No… if NO then a series of questions in that branch… if you become pregnant then that set of decisions… another branch was about whether or not you got an STD. Another major line of questions was about choosing birth control, which one, pluses and minuses … hundreds of decisions and possible outcomes if you say YES to sex before marriage.
Then go back to the original question asking about Sex before Marriage. If the answer is NO ~~ that’s all. No more decisions. simple drama-free life. No branches. No pregnancy. No emotional turmoil.
The brothers and the Father have two different responses to Joseph’s dreams. The brothers are the YES side and life quickly becomes this convoluted mess. They fight, they get in over their heads, they do things they don’t even believe in doing, they cause decade’s long grief, shame, lies, corruption, living an underbelly existence of falsehood. Jacob says NO. simple. “His father kept the matter in mind.” Jacob was not burying his head in the sand, he simply chooses to think. If I ever did anything wrong as a teenager my father would often say one word: “THINK.” Jacob’s wise response: he kept the matter in mind. Jacob was probably disappointed in Joseph, but by deciding to ponder and wonder, he is letting the dreams go. He is doing what Gamaliel said, “If this is of God then good will come of it, but if not it won’t…” Jacob is letting go and letting God.
The way to overcome jealousy, any imploding emotion, is to get to that peaceful place where you don’t have to try to figure out what makes other people tick. It’s healthy to put what you don’t understand into God’s hands. Factoid about Genesis 37: God is never mentioned in this powerful story. Yet God’s fingerprints are all over it. When your emotions start to get the better of you, when you are tempted to withdraw into depression or lash out in anger, choose to wait. You may not see God in it at that moment, but he’s there. His fingerprints are over everything that happens. Think. I don’t know any other way to find peace with God in this old confusing world but to simply let God worry about it. I’ve always loved the little prayer I heard from John Maxwell, “Lord, You’ve got a problem.”
Don’t say YES to the path of drama with its unintended consequences digging deeper and deeper into craziness. Nobody wins. Revenge never brings peace.
Say No to drama. Jacob goes on to live a life without Joseph just like the brothers, only for Jacob the grief is simple and real, not a convoluted bag of mixed emotions. No guilt on Jacob’s part. No kicking himself, but simple grief and love of the loss of a son.
Choose the simple answer like Jacob and avoid a ton of grief and unintended crazy making consequences… Trust in God, even when you can’t always see him and your emotions are tempting you to lash out. Faith is the hardest when we don’t understand the world around us, but that is also when faith is most needed. Amen.