He made me do it! I don’t know about you but I know that I said those words many times growing up as one of four siblings. Excusing one’s own behaviour by pointing to the behaviour of others justifying your own behaviour on the basis of that of others.
In Genesis 37 the story of Jospeh begins and it’s family dysfunction right from the start with Scripture recording no less than three times in the first 8 verses that Jospeh was “hated” by his brothers.
Why? Well this family is a recipe for conflict, it is like the proverbial haystack soaked in petrol just waiting for a spark! Think about this family for a moment with me; Jacob’s family has two wives who are sisters! Two wives must be complicated but two wives who are sisters – phew. There is deep pain and jealousy here as Scripture records that he openly loved one more than the other (Genesis 29:30). To make matters even more complicated these two sisters were competing seemingly in some form of “baby race” trying to produce offspring, jealous of one another so much so that both of Jacob’s wives at some point have their husband there two female servants as additional wives for Jacob.
Now, Joseph and his brothers had not been responsible for this family context, but it was the one in which they were growing up in and were having to deal with.
Based on all that’s gone before, we ought not to be surprised to read in Genesis 37:3 that Scripture records that Jacob loved his son Jospeh more than any of his other sons. He had done this before, with his wives, openly displayed preference.
And so, his brothers were provoked to jealousy and hatred for Jacob. It recorded four times in the first 10 verses of the Genesis account of Joseph’s life story that his brothers were hated him vehemently and were also jealous of his favoured status within the family. Their hatred that only grew as their dad gave him a special robe and also when he unwisely spoke of dreams he had received of the future to come that painted him in a favourable light compared to them.
Can you empathise with these brothers? They must have felt some sense of justification in their heart attitude towards their brother because of all the family history of dysfunction and now also due to the favouritism shown to him by their father.
Is their hatred not justified, caused by the family circumstance and the actions of their father and their brother too?
Paul David Tripp says;
“People and situations do not determine our behaviour;
they provide the occasion where our behaviour reveals our hearts.”
We are not in control of many things, but we are responsible for our response. Joseph and his brothers did not pick their family, they didn’t choose their father or have control over his decisions and actions, but they were responsible for their behaviour, their response.
They hated Joseph, they allowed that hatred to simmer, they shared it, they spoke to each other of it and ultimately they acted on it when they plotted to kill him and ended up selling him as a slave and then they sinned again by deceiving their father and causing him heart ache for years to come.
We need to own our sin, the circumstances, other people didn’t “make us do it” and don’t justify our sinful actions, attitudes or words. This quote by PD Tripp has been so helpful to me forcing me to continually see with clarity that people and situations just provide me with the mirror I need at times to see what is truly in my own heart.