In one of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament, the story of Joseph and his brothers, we see what happens when a parent favors one child over the others. The reason itself does not matter—the fact that the brothers witness their father’s greater love for Joseph simply because he is the son of Jacob’s advancing years is enough to drive them to kidnap him, plot to kill him, sell him into slavery and falsely report his death to their father. This sounds like a pretty outrageous scheme, but is it really so different from stories we hear every day of family members quarreling over the contents of a will or arguing about something that, in the long run, is of little consequence?
We all—being only human—experience jealousy, anger and hurt feelings, particularly where our families are concerned. These feelings can cause us to react in a manner that is all our of proportion and completely inappropriate to the situation. If the brothers had prayed for God’s help in dealing with their feelings of jealousy, they probably never would have sold Joseph into slavery. Of course, their story ends well. But what about our own stories? How do we treat others who anger or disappoint us when we try to handle the situation without God’s guidance? Unless we ask for God’s help, our conflicts may not be resolved as well as they might if we but pray for discernment, patience and the ability to act out of love.
- It seems unfair for Jacob to love one of his children more than the others, but too often such favoritism is a fact of life. How would you react if you were in the brothers’ sandals?
- Why do you think Reuben advocated selling Joseph into slavery rather than killing him?
- Have you ever tried to get revenge for some reason? Whether or not you succeeded, how did you feel about it afterward?
- Make a list of your faults. Write, “God loves me in spite of…” across the top of the list in large letters. Pray to God for help in smoothing your rough edges and in learning self-acceptance (remembering that self-acceptance doesn’t mean simply overlooking your own faults with no intention of working to correct them).
- Make a list of people you find difficult to accept for whatever reason. Pray to God to help you discover something about each person to like. As the opportunity arises, let those people know in some fashion that they are worthy of acceptance, perhaps by visiting them or sharing a meal with them or participating in some activity with them.