Throughout Lent, I will be posting short meditations on the Daily Office readings every day. Please journey and pray with me through these readings. To read previous Lenten meditations click here.
Wednesday, February 29
“Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.”
Honestly, how can you blame Joseph’s brothers? Joseph, at least as a child, was a prick. He was spoiled and flaunted his blessings as if he had earned them. He was selfish, content to show off his things rather than humbly share them.
Granted, planning his murder or selling him into slavery is unforgivable, but surely, Joseph isn’t exactly blameless either, lording his favored status with his father over his brothers. How exactly would any sibling react when told that one day they would be subservient? It might not be as extreme of Joseph’s brothers, but I imagine the sentiment fueling it wouldn’t be far off.
So much of the Old Testament is fueled by such family rivalries, dating back to Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael, Hagar and Sarah. Certainly, these stories have much to say about family dynamics, morals from which we could all learn about not playing favorites (Jacob and Esau), about not comparing our children and affirming their unique identities (Cain and Abel) or simply not exploiting one’s family for pride or glory (Isaac, Ishmael, Abraham, Sarah and Hagar).
But, for American Christians, I think these stories bear a deeper, metaphorical message as well. We are favored, whether by God or through our own quest for power at all costs. We are the richest Christians in the world. The fattest Christians in the world. The most comfortable Christians in the world. And the most arrogant.
We lord our blessings over others as proof that God favors us, that God has chosen us to be bowed before by others around us. Like Joseph, we do not share our blessings with our brothers (and sisters). Like Joseph, we wear our garish favor, our obscene wealth, our coat of colors for all to see. We swagger, oblivious that our actions goad the hungry, the oppressed and the abused.
If we continue to hoard our blessings as if God owed us such favors, it should not surprise us if one day, like Joseph, we find ourselves at the bottom of a dry well, naked, without our garish coats.
And our only rescuers will be slavers.
God, help us to be humble amidst our enormous wealth. Help us, in gratitude for such undeserved favor, or in repentance for so many extorted blessings, not to hold tightly to what we own, what we hoard: our homes, our time, our food, our money, our power. Help us to realize that so many times, our blessings come at the expense of the poor and less fortunate. Help us to realize that so often, our blessings are merely good luck, for having been born in a certain country, with a certain amount of wealth and with a certain skin color. Teach us how to abdicate our self-proclaimed position of favor, for the first shall be last. Or at least, teach us how to wield our power, humbly and peacefully, for the benefit of all.