“And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, ‘Lie with me.’”
Genesis 39: 7
King James Version
“Prosperity and Passion”
How to Get Ahead
“Wealth means power: the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade.”
What have I used in my life to try to control the behavior of another person?
“O Lord, help us to be masters of ourselves.”
Sir Alexander Paterson
Across the desert the caravan moved, carrying a 17-year-old young man who had never been away from the family who adored him. Joseph faced living in a strange country, with strange people, in a position he’d never been in before. Joseph was now a slave.
Think for a moment how Joseph must have felt as the Ishmeelite merchant men took him farther and farther from home. Away from the father who favored him from the day he was born. Away from his brother Benjamin. Away from the security and comfort he had known since he was a child.
For Joseph, that was then! This was now! Upon his arrival in Egypt, he found himself on the “sales block” with other bodies.
The high bidder for Joseph’s service was Potiphar… “an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard….” (Genesis 39:1).
It didn’t take long for Potiphar to see that everything Joseph touched turned to gold. Genesis 39:2 states that, “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man….” But Joseph wasn’t only “doing well” for himself. Potiphar’s entire household benefited from the blessings that flowed into Joseph’s life. Interestingly, not only did Potiphar realize Joseph was blessed, but he also came to understand that the “Lord” was behind Joseph’s prosperous behavior. Isn’t it wonderful that in a heathen land, Joseph’s integrity and conscientious work ethic spoke louder than anything he said. It was the way he behaved that left an impact on Potiphar.
It wasn’t long before Joseph was made overseer of Potiphar’s house and “all” was put in Joseph’s hands. In fact, Genesis 39:6 tells us that Potiphar ended up leaving everything under Joseph’s control, except for the food Potiphar ate.
With Joseph running everything and with plenty of money coming in, Potiphar could take it easy and let things roll right along. Maybe this is why Mrs. Potiphar lost interest in her husband or looked in another man’s direction or found herself lonely. Somewhere along the line, Mrs. Potiphar became bored, alone and looking. With a handsome young man, who had a golden touch in the house, Joseph became very alluring, indeed! Although Mrs. Potiphar knew Joseph was a “slave,” she may have considered this to work to her advantage because how could someone lower in status than she was, ever deny any request she might make of him.
However, before we heap our disgust on Mrs. Potiphar, I’d like to share some thoughts written by Sara Buswell:
“Before we sit in judgment on the behavior of this pagan woman, we should ask ourselves whether our own behaviors or attitudes are really any better. To what extent are (we) considerate of the needs of others? What tactics do (we) use to get people to do what (we) want? Perhaps (our) objective is not the same as that of Potiphar’s wife, but how different are (our) methods? Do (we) tease, scream or sulk? Do (we) make threats or false promises? What is (our) definition of manipulation, and would (we) fit the category of an individual who tries to use other people to satisfy (our) desires, regardless of their desires?”
We may not be trying to seduce a “Joseph,” but our behavior can be identical if we use our power to try to control others in our lives.
One day, when Mrs. Potiphar thought no one was watching, like a tiger on the prowl, she pounced and went for the jugular. No beating around the bush. Mrs. Potiphas was an “in your face” kind of woman. “Lie with me,” she demanded. Direct. Blunt. Forward.
What was Joseph to do? I doubt he ever felt he would be in this position. He had worked hard. He had played by the rules. He had done the right thing. Now, he was faced with losing everything because servants were supposed to obey their owners. If he crossed Mrs. Potiphar’s will, who knows what would happen.
Have you ever been in a position where you were asked to do something you knew was wrong, but the consequence for saying, “no,” would be devastating? What helped you make the right decision?
In Joseph’s case, there was one reason he did not succumb to temptation – Joseph never forgot who he belonged to. First, he knew the prosperity that had followed him was a gift from his Father in heaven. In some of the most memorable words recorded in the Bible, Joseph’s answer to Mrs. Potiphar’s proposition should serve as a blueprint on how to handle temptation for every one of us:… “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9 K.J.V.).
In I Chronicles 4: 10, the prayer of Jabez is recorded. The one line I find very important in this prayer is:… and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me….” One translation of this phrase is: “keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.”
This thought was foremost in the mind of Joseph. He did not, above all things, want to cause pain to his Heavenly Father.
The great preacher and hymn writer Charles Wesley penned this request, “Make and keep me pure within.” May this be our prayer, even in the face of temptations that threaten to shake the foundation of our world.
“Grant Lord, that I may not, for one moment, admit willingly into my soul any thought contrary to thy love.”
“Almighty God, in whom we live and move and have our being, Thou hast made us for Thyself, so that our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee; grant us purity of heart and strength of purpose, that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing Thy will, no weakness from doing it; but that in Thy light we may see light, and in Thy service find perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus