Monday, July 25, 2005

Dealing With Temptation

GENESIS 39
We could never have a better model for dealing with temptation than looking at how Joseph dealt with Potiphar's wife who would just not take no for an answer.
Joseph provides a true model of strength in the face of temptation, which recognizes the danger of remaining in its presence. "Shun immorality!" Paul says in I Cor. 6:18. Other translators prefer the word "flee." Joseph did both: he refused Potiphar's wife, shunning her suggestions, and then fled when she didn't listen. It is not cowardice to run from such temptation, it is common sense. Sexual immorality may entice but its ultimate end is death. St. Paul speaks elsewhere (see, for example, I Cor. 10:13 and Heb. 4:15-16) of the mercy and grace that God provides to help us endure and escape temptation, and says that God will not allow us to be tempted above our strength. What was Joseph's secret? Vs. 21 says it all: "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison."
Thinking of Joseph and temptation is an obvious theme for this story. What is not so obvious is thinking of how Potiphar reacted to his wife's accusation of Joseph's attempted rape. Leave it to C.S. Lewis to examine the story more deeply for what it shows us about everyone involved.
Reflection on the story raised in my mind a problem I never happened to have thought of before: why was Joseph imprisoned, and not killed, by Potiphar? Surely it seems extraordinarily mild treatment for attempted rape of a great lady by a slave? Or must one assume that Potiphar, tho' ignorant of the lady's intention to make him a cuckold, was aware in general ... that her stories about the servante were to be taken with a grain of salt—that his real view was "I don't suppose for a moment that Joseph did anything of the sort, but I foresee there'll be no peace till I get him out of the house?" One is tempted to begin to imagine the whole life of the Potiphar family: e.g. how often had he heard similar stories from her before?
C.S. Lewis from a letter to his brother, February 25, 1940
Scripture is so rich. Reading the stories again and again leaves us the leisure, if we want to put it that way, to see just how much is in there for us.

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