By Brenda Black
Most parents fret over fairness. If more than one child is in the family, they labor over the equal balance of gifts, attention, discipline, extracurricular activities and permission for all kinds of freedoms. It's a self-inflicted pressure to convince our children they are loved uniformly. To keep life interesting, God never delivers similar babies. He gives us total opposites who make this tortuous game of equivalency all the more challenging. Most parents still pull it off with excellence and every kid knows he is loved and valued uniquely, yet equally.
Not so with the patriarch Jacob. In his house full of sons and half-brothers, he made a huge mistake. He favored one more highly and doomed him to the fallout of jealousy. The story of Joseph and his retaliatory brothers begins in Genesis 37 where Joseph reveals a dream of his own supremacy. And daddy Jacob (now called Israel) fuels the fire of resentment by clothing the baby of the family in a royal robe. Then he sends him out to the fields to his indignant brothers.
“[Joseph's] brothers had gone to pasture their father's flocks at Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, 'Your brothers, you know, are pasturing the flocks at Shechem. Get ready. I'm sending you to them.'
“'I'm ready,' Joseph replied.
“Then Israel said to him, 'Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are doing, and bring word back to me.' So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem.” (Gen. 37:12-14)
The fact that Israel was blind of the jealousies among his boys is alarming. That he would send the despised youngest, who's been lolling around the house, out to check on his brothers who are sleeping with stinky sheep...that's just nonsense. Couple that with Joseph's audacity to don the luxurious robe as his brothers wear work clothes and go without baths or hot meals. His blind arrogance is asking for a whopping! The rest of the story: A brother is sold into slavery, sons lie to their daddy, and horrible grief and guilt rip men more to pieces than the wild beast of their fabricated tale of Joseph's death.
Sounds to me like Joseph should have left that jacket hanging in the closet and kept his dreams to himself. At the very least, he should have employed some discernment.
Though God ultimately turned Israel's and Joseph's mistakes into moments for His glory, both father and son learned their lessons through extreme suffering. Jacob should have remembered how favoritism from his mother tore his family apart instead of repeating the sin. Joseph should have opened his eyes and realized that the precious visions and plans that God gives us are not for our own edification, but for His.
When God sows into your mind a glimpse into his heart, guard those thoughts closely; handle them carefully. But do not flaunt them senselessly. If the one to whom God reveals such dreams is so blind that he cannot see the big picture, how can we expect those who hear it second hand to comprehend its significance.
God is just and fair and works all things together for His good purpose. He also desires to give us perfectly wonderful gifts. It's our privileged position to wear his favor humbly, not flagrantly, because all that we are and how we treat people fairly is for His glory. With all of the color He lavishes upon us, it is vitally important that we balance it with plenty of common sense.