Scripture: But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. Genesis 39:11-12 ESV
Observation: Just when you would think Joseph has experienced enough trauma, narrowly escaping death at the hands of his jealous brothers and then rebuilding his life as a trusted servant to Potiphar, then comes a devastating trial with Potiphar’s wife. This entitled woman relentlessly pursues Joseph for sensual pleasures, which he wisely rebuffs. Unfortunately, on one particular day, Joseph lets down his guard. He enters his master’s house to attend to his responsibilities while Potiphar’s wife lies in waiting uninhibited by eyewitnesses. As the above verses indicate, she grasps his garment and again solicits him. While Joseph prudently makes a run for it, he leaves behind what would become incriminating evidence for her false allegations: his outer garment.
Takeaway: First of all, what’s up with Joseph and his coats? Twice now, his garments have led to his demise. Vengeful, Potiphar’s wife contends that Joseph tried to force himself on her, as evidenced by his coat, which she had in her possession. Furious, Potiphar sends Joseph to prison, where he will continue to mature emotionally and spiritually and eventually experience redemption. Nevertheless, all that he had worked toward in rising above his brother’s betrayal had evaporated in an instance.
So what can we glean from this story? When Joseph realized that he was alone with Potiphar’s wife, he should have immediately left the premises, eliminating the appearance of impropriety. Indeed, Billy Graham, early on in his stellar rise to worldwide evangelism crusades, understood the risks. He made two critical decisions to safeguard him against false allegations. First, under the approval of his board of directors, Graham set a reasonable salary for his services to avoid any future claims of profiteering through his donors’ generosity. Secondly, and more to the point of this cautionary story, he set a hard-fast rule that he would not travel alone with a female adult—even providing a lift in his car. Thus, his policy ensured protection against spurious sexual-misconduct charges or the spread of rumors by others who might see him alone with a woman. Granted, while it may seem over the top, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Holy Spirit who speaks words of warning to our consciences and through others. Would you please help us to heed these warnings, to pick up on the danger signs, and avoid any appearance of impropriety? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling