There is sooooo much here if I started, I couldn’t finish.
We are introduced to Joseph, Jacob’s favorite, and the jealous hatred of his brothers, fueled by Joseph telling them of his dreams. The coat of many colors, the treachery of the brothers, the narrow escape from death in the cistern and the eventual sale into slavery to Potiphar. We also have a tangential telling of the story of Judah’s first born sons, and how Peretz was born out of his father’s (Judah) relationship with his own daughter-in-law, although Judah did not know it was Tamar at the time.
Back to Joseph, in Egypt, slave to Potiphar, but now because of his righteousness and competence, the slave is in charge of the masters household, and the masters wife wants the slave for her sexual partner. Joseph refuses to the point where the wife accuses him of doing just what he refused to do, and he is thrown into jail (probably because Potiphar was being merciful- normally an accusation of attempted rape would get the slave killed.)
In jail Joseph again shows his righteousness and is made a trustee, and this parashah ends with Joseph correctly interpreting the dreams of the baker and the cup bearer.
Like I said, just sooo much: but what I want to talk about today is not regarding any of these events, but what happens to the righteous in an unrighteous world.
Joseph was a Tzaddik, a righteous man. When he was younger he was a little immature, and didn’t show good judgement by telling his brothers about his dreams, but we see as he went through some tsouris that he matured to the point where his acts of righteousness talked for him.
So here we have this righteous man, a slave yet trusted by his master so much that he was, in truth, the de facto master of the house. But although Joseph was righteous, the environment he lived in wasn’t. What made Joseph stand out so well what also what got him into trouble so quickly.
Didn’t Izabel want to kill Elijah when he demonstrated the goodness and power of God? Wasn’t Jeremiah thrown into a cistern to die, then kept under arrest for years? Wasn’t Shaul (Paul) stoned, whipped and jailed for speaking righteousness? John was marooned on Patmos, and James was killed. Many who spoke and did nothing but what the Lord had commanded of them, righteous, holy and moral people, became martyrs because of their service to God.
The story ends, we all know, with Joseph eventually reaping the fruits of his righteousness, and as such, showing for the first time the effect of God’s promise to Abraham that those who bless His people will be blessed- Joseph saved not just himself, but the Egyptians, and the people of God. Pharoah blessed and treated Joseph well, and God rewarded Pharaoh by saving his kingdom.
We all live in a cursed world, which wants anything righteous and godly to be gone. The righteous person has, as Paul described in 2 Corinthians, 2:16, the smell of death on them to those who are not righteous, to those who are of the world. That is because those who do as God wants, which should be all of us who profess to be saved and who have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) living in us, speak to the very soul of the unrighteous reminding them that their ways will turn on them, that a judgement is coming, and that they will end up with the short end of the stick.
Think about it this way: you have been hiking and camping out for a week, no shower, no bathing, no toothbrush, and you walk into an elevator full of people. How do you think they might react to you? You don’t think there’s anything wrong- you are used to your smell, but they aren’t. You think you are OK, but the truth is you stink!!
That is sort of how it is with the righteous in the midst of the unrighteous, except instead of them realizing how much you stink, your “cleanliness” forces them to realize how much they stink!
And, just like Joseph suffered not for his sins but for his righteousness, we will suffer for our righteousness, too. The world hates us because it hates Yeshua. In fact, He told us all about that, didn’t He? In Matthew 10:22, John 15:18, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, and throughout the Gospels we are told by Yeshua that following Him is no bed of roses. We will be hated, attacked, tortured, killed and…well, I guess once you’ve been killed it can’t get much worse.
Being righteous in an unrighteous world sucks. That’s all there is to it. The good news, however, is that this life is but a mist, a moment, the wink of an eye, and we can look forward to reaping our just rewards in the presence of the Lord of lords and King of kings, forever! Things always seem to take a long time when looking forward to them, but when you have come into your time, looking back it seems to have happened in a flash!
When your righteousness gets you in trouble, don’t look to the present but think on the future. As we have been commanded to do, pray for those that hurt and harass you, give our enemy water and food and show compassion and forgiveness: it will demonstrate your righteousness even more, and thereby give glory to God. And, it will really eat at them, too.
Hey! There’s nothing wrong with knowing that your goody-little-two-shoes behavior will really rub their noses in it. After all, doesn’t God direct us with His staff (gently leading us) and His rod (giving us a good whack upside our heads) when it best suits His needs? We can allow our righteousness to foster some level of jealousy in others, hopefully which (with the help of our prayers for their deliverance) will lead them not into more sinning but make them jealous for our peace, our joy in the midst of tsouris, and bring them to the Lord.
The one thing you need to remember is this: being holier than another person doesn’t mean you are any better than they are- you are still a sinner! Yes, you are a saved sinner, but you are still a sinner. Righteousness has to be tempered with humility. That is what Joseph learned (probably sometime right after his brothers threw him into the cistern.) You can’t “lord it over” others (see Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25) and you must be humble. Allow your actions to speak for you, and don’t talk of yourself as if you are any better than anyone else.
Remember that you were once like them, so be humble and thankful you are changing, that you are becoming holier. That doesn’t mean better, it means more righteous. There are plenty of unrighteous people who do righteous things. Even Nebuchadnezzar did good things, now and then. So be holier, just not “holier than thou.”
The world hates the holy, hates the righteous, and really, really hates to be reminded of the fact that they aren’t. That’s their problem: we need to be what God wants us to be, which is to be humble, to be compassionate, and to be righteous. And to be prepared to suffer for it.
It’s hot in the fire, but that is the only way to purify the gold.