Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lessons from Potiphar's Wife

 by Bryan Stevenson

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age - Titus 2:11-1

I was in high school when I had an epiphany about the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife from Genesis 39. I even wrote a song about it. The song wasn’t any good, but I remember that Dad was predictably impressed. (He was always impressed by his kids and grand kids, and he wasn’t shy about praising them.) The story spoke to me because Potiphar’s wife represented any sin or temptation that I was struggling with, and Joseph’s response illustrated one way to deal with that temptation. He fled. That isn’t a very manly thing to do, to run away and not even face down your enemy. It seems to show weakness in the face of temptation. However, throughout my adult life I’ve applied the tactic multiple times.

Ideally, we’d all have the self control necessary to stand firm in our convictions, but sometimes avoidance is an act of self control itself. As an example, instead of buying ice cream and disciplining myself to only have small servings on rare occasions, I will not buy the ice cream in the first place. It is much easier to decide once, at the grocery store, to avoid temptation, than it is to face it down every single time I open the freezer. It turns out that science supports this technique. In fact, your willpower is finite. It depletes itself every time you use it, and needs to be rested and restored periodically.

Self control isn’t only about continually denying yourself, or continually choosing to do what is right. Self control also requires the wisdom to know how to most efficiently and effectively use it. For example, if you struggle to set aside time to exercise, schedule to work out with someone who will hold you accountable to be there. If you waste time or watch things you shouldn’t on the internet, put up internet filters to protect your home and your mind. If you abuse your credit cards, get rid of them. All of these techniques require some self control to implement, but end up helping you make the right decisions going forward. Like Joseph, you run away once, and in this way don’t drain your pool of available willpower unnecessarily.

So, I guess Joseph was onto something when he split, leaving his coat behind in the hands of the seductress. Of course, it didn’t turn out perfectly for him at first. He ended up being accused of rape and thrown in jail. However, he did successfully resist temptation. That set the stage for even greater things in his life going forward, and the same will be true for us as we exercise good judgement and self control.

No comments:

Post a Comment