My Bible study today was over Genesis 40, which tells the story of Joseph after he was wrongfully imprisoned by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. I believe Joseph must have spent some significant time in jail, because the first line of the chapter just says “some time later…” Anyway, Joseph once again receives the blessing of God and the favor of his superiors (this is actually talked about at the end of Genesis 39), and he is quickly put in charge of everything and everyone at the prison. While Joseph is there, some of Pharaoh’s officials get sent to the same prison. These men end up having dreams while there, and Joseph (who has a little experience in this area) is able to help them interpret their dreams. To the cup-bearer he says that his dream means that he will be made right with Pharaoh again and will be restored into his old position in 3 days. Joseph tells him that he is completely innocent, and he asks the cup-bearer to remember him when he is in high places again. To the baker he says that his dream means that he will be hanged in 3 days. I notice that Joseph didn’t ask anything special of him (who wants to be associated with someone who is going to get executed?). The chapter ends by saying that everything happened the way Joseph said it would, but that the cup-bearer did not remember Joseph when he was restored back to Pharaoh’s service.
So what can I learn from this passage? The thing to stood out to me was how Joseph, in his response to the cup-bearer, never placed the blame for his circumstances on anyone. He says “I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (v. 15). It would have been so easy to start throwing blame at his brothers, but he only says that he was carried off forcibly and against his will. He could have easily told them how Potiphar’s wife lied and manipulated the situation so that it made Joseph look guilty, thus the reason why he was currently in prison. But instead he only argues his innocence. I’m not sure I could do the same in Joseph’s situation. When I am treated with injustice, I usually demand that those who have treated me this way should make it right. Of course, I have never been sold into slavery or wrongly imprisoned (thank God!), but I have been overcharged at restaurants and tricked into getting repairs done on cars that probably didn’t need to be done. I was once told by a dentist that I needed to have thousands of dollars of work done on one tooth because of a cavity, and that I would be hospitalized if I didn’t get it done soon – I didn’t get the work done and it’s been almost 10 years! (I’ve been to dentists since then that say everything is fine…I’m still steaming over this one!). And in these situations, I am usually quick to place blame and to tell everyone I know about these low-down, dirty scoundrels that would dare to treat me this way! But Joseph didn’t do this. He was content to prove himself innocent.
Without reading the rest of this story right now, I can’t draw any conclusions about the benefits of refusing to pass blame in Joseph’s situation. But I can say this – people expect us to pass blame when we are treated unjustly. Everyone does it! And when we choose not to, we stand out as someone who is different. And if you think about it, in a way it reflects some of the grace that we’ve received through Christ, in that though we have plenty to be blamed for, Jesus isn’t pointing any fingers.