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Posts Tagged ‘brothers’

Art by Little-LadyBee

Art by Little-LadyBee

Reuben, eldest son of Jacob and Leah, has quite a sin in his past. There may be scholarly argument about it, but the NIV clearly states that Reuben slept with Bilhah, who was Rachel’s handmaid and concubine to Jacob and who bore two of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel (Jacob). What Reuben did was a slap in the face to his own father, and somehow, I think he intended it. For it was Reuben who also found the mandrakes for his mother (Leah) in hopes of helping her carve a more loving relationship with Jacob. It never happened. Reuben had some issues with his father.

And yet, it was also Reuben who tried to save his brother Joseph and his many-colored coat, despite his father’s favoritism.

When Reuben heard the plan, he tried to help Joseph.
Reuben: Let’s not kill him. We don’t need to shed any blood to be free of him. Let’s just toss him into some pit here in the wilderness. We don’t need to lay a hand on him.
Reuben thought perhaps he could secretly come back later and get Joseph out of the pit and take him home to their father before any more harm came to him.  The brothers agreed. [Genesis 32:21-22, The Voice]

Reuben had a bit of righteous indignation, whether toward his father, for the way he treated Leah or, in this case, about the impulsive decision of his brothers to kill Joseph. And yet, whether for good or for ill, Reuben was blinded by his own point of view.

This is a good warning for me. It’s a good warning for us all.

hero or villainWe have all sinned or made bad judgments/decisions along the way. That doesn’t mean we can’t choose rightly today or do a courageous and honorable thing. That thing in our past does work to keep us humble. And that’s not a bad thing really.

The hero act does not erase the past but it does give hope that we can change. All have a potential for good. But we must also take care how we view others: villain or hero?

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Art by Shoshannah Brombacher

Art by Shoshannah Brombacher

We’re not supposed to play favorites. And yet, we do. Well, all right, let me make this more personal. I do. It’s not necessarily overtly conscious, but I catch myself expecting certain behaviors from one sibling or another. I’m sure this crosses over to my work, my neighbors, and my friends. After all, that is how we get a “best friend.” My favorite.

Genesis 37:3-4
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornaterobe for him.When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

But, there’s more to this than that. This is not just about the father who blatantly treats one child differently than another. It’s also about the siblings themselves. They, too, wanted to be their father’s favorite. Don’t we?

For many years, joked about it, but secretly truly resented my mother’s preference for my brother, especially since he didn’t really deserve it. I’m not saying anything I haven’t told him over the years. She favored him primarily because he was male and the oldest. This was the norm in her day and in her generation. And yet, I was the one who made sure that she got a call on Mother’s day and holidays. I was the one who visited. I was the one who took her places and eventually, even took her into our home. What about me? Look what I’m doing for you. See? See? See?

James and John, Jesus’s own disciples were the same. Let us be the one who sit on either side of you. We want to be your favorites (and by implication, not John and Peter).

I’m thinking I’ve been doing this same dance with the Christ. Anoint me Jesus, make me special, pour out your gifts upon me, use me in some miraculous way, speak through me, astound the world.

Yikes! God forgive me for those secret thoughts.

There’s no doubt, Jacob made an error, showing his favoritism so overtly. Joseph, too, made an error, telling his dreams of exaltation and power.

But, here’s the real point.

In the same way that Jesus told James and John, “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” [Mark 10:38] He was trying to clarify: the greater the anointing, the greater the cost, the greater the sacrifice.

Before Joseph became powerful, his life led him through great trials.

If I accept the mantel of blessing, then I must also understand and accept what comes with it. It’s not a sled ride downhill. It’s a climb. It’s not a sailboat blown by the wind, it’s a rowboat.

We must be careful what we ask for and count the cost.

Joseph did not ask to be favorite but the impact of that position changed the course of his life. In some ways, Jacob, himself, by casting Joseph in that role, initiated that direction. So, let us all take care. We are all responsible, whether by favoriting one person over another or by wanting it.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” [Luke 12:48b]

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