In my Wednesday night Bible Study Cafe´class (Wednesdays 6:30pm at Liberty Hwy 76) I shared 7 observations about overcoming temptation gleaned from Genesis 39 as Joseph is propositioned by Potiphar’s wife.
1 Your mindset going in often determines how you come out (Gen. 39:1-6). If any man had a reason to be bitter about life, it was Joseph. He was hated by his brothers; betrayed by them and sold into slavery. Yet even in a difficult place Joseph was a man of integrity and found ways to advance. Had Joseph chosen bitterness and thought of himself only as a rejected brother and purchased slave – when a beautiful woman propositioned him he would have thought, “why not?” But because Joseph was man, his location may have changed but his mindset never did and he knew WHY NOT! How you think of yourself going in usually determines how things will come out.
2 Don’t just FANTASIZE about what you stand to gain. THINK about what you stand to lose (Genesis 39:6-10). Fantasy is a story without consequence. THINK is rooted in reality. Fantasy is in your own mind. THINK seeks out wise counsel. Fantasy “glorifies what is wrongfully gained (thank you Rob Hoffbauer – great word).” THINK understands the value of what is lost. As Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph with an attractive offer, Joseph cited truth – Potiphar has withheld nothing from me – he has given me responsibility – YOU ARE HIS WIFE – how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God. Don’t let the situation play out in your fantasies, THINK through it with a lens of truth.
3 Temptation is not a single encounter. It is a persistent offer (Genesis 39:10). For Potiphar’s wife, “no” meant “ask again the next day.” The Bible says she propositioned him “day after day.” I wish our temptations would go away, but even when you tell them “no” they may keep talking. You are the one who has to determine “NO” means “NO” and will continue to mean “NO.”
4 Temptation is not sin. Sin is temptation after incubation (James 1:12-15, Genesis 39:11-12). I think it is important here to insert what I believe to be the Bible’s most clear, concise teaching on temptation. It is not wrong to be tempted. We are all tempted. But James describes temptation with the same language we would describe the beginnings of human life – conception, incubation, birth, and maturity. The Bible says that Joseph did not toy around with it, he fled from it. 2 Tim. 2:22 gives us a great strategy for overcoming temptation – RUN!
5 Refusing evil does not stop evil (Genesis 39:13-18). Joseph did the right thing, but it put him in a bad situation. Joseph did not make the decision based on who she was, but on who he was. It was not about what she was willing to give, but about what he wasn’t willing to take. As right as Joseph’s decision was, it is amazing how quickly she came up with a story that was all wrong. You can’t change people – but you must be careful to not allow bad people to entice you into bad behavior. You can’t change who THEY are. Never forget who YOU are in the Lord.
6 No matter what happens, trusting God is always better than giving in to temptation (Genesis 39:19-23). A lot of us may read Genesis 39:19 as defeat – Joseph gets thrown into prison. The problem in reading that verse through modern Western eyes is that it fails to realize what COULD have happened to Joseph. He was a Hebrew slave. He could have been castrated, killed – executed – and even by some ancient Egyptian laws, fed to gators. But he was thrown into prison. Even then notice, this was not Cairo County jail. It was the King’s prison. Also notice, the Lord never left him. The language in the beginning of the passage – Joseph was favored, trusted, prospered – is the same language that is used in the end of the passage. What God did for Joseph in Potiphar’s house he will now do for him in prison. The location may change. God never does.
7 Some things feel detrimental but may prove to be beneficial (Genesis 39:19-23). Joseph wound up in prison, but if you continue to read the story he is one step closer to the throne! The stories of God’s people are filled with detrimental episodes that proved to be beneficial turns in life. There are no shortcuts to blessing. Sometimes the right way is the hard way.