By now you’ve probably heard about (or seen) the photos of Kim Kardashian that were released last week. To be honest, I choose not to keep up with the Kardashians, and I was out of the loop on the latest saga until one of the pictures appeared in my Twitter feed unsolicited. Before long, I saw it on Facebook and a few more times on Twitter.
The internet erupted with countless articles, blog posts, tweets, and the like about body image and the objectification of women. Although these topics are worthy of consideration and conversation, when I first saw the picture, I wasn’t thinking about either of them. Instead, I was thinking about my husband, my dad, my brothers, my pastor, and my male friends.
Most of the men I know go to great lengths to keep their eyes off of images like the ones strewn carelessly across social media last week. As much as I wanted to be upset with the media for once again publicizing the private, I remembered that this kind of thing isn’t isolated to 21st century American culture.
Genesis 39 recounts the story of Joseph who, after being sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers, rose to power in Egypt because the Lord brought success to everything he did. Joseph became the right-hand man to a prominent Egyptian official named Potiphar. Everyone took notice of Joseph – even Potiphar’s wife. Apparently she attempted to seduce Joseph “day after day”, but he refused without exception (Genesis 39:10). Eventually fed up with the rejection, she grabbed his clothes in an attempt to get what she wanted. Rather than cave under the pressure, Joseph took off running, leaving his cloak in her hands. Potiphar’s wife then used Joseph’s decency against him, insisting that he tried to take advantage of her. While the wrongful accusation unfairly cost Joseph his job, his reputation, and his freedom, he maintained his integrity.
Joseph didn’t go looking for trouble by putting himself in compromising situations. Instead, he went about his business seeking to honor God and others. And yet, Potiphar’s wife still came after him. Joseph’s desire to do the right thing didn’t exempt him from her onslaught; in fact, it may have been his upstanding character that made her intent on his destruction.
As Christians we shouldn’t be surprised when opportunities for sin seem to be around every corner. Jesus warned us of our enemy’s aggressive strategies when He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). We have an active adversary who is hell-bent on our ruin. Although we can’t entirely regulate everything that comes across the computer screen or into our lives, we can certainly control how we respond.
Countering Potiphar’s wife’s propositioning, Joseph said, “With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-10).
Joseph successfully resisted temptation by calling sin “sin” and by acknowledging the detrimental effects it would have in his relationships with God and with Potiphar.
In an increasingly permissive world, we need Joseph’s example as a reminder to label the issues accurately instead of downplaying them as “no big deal” or rationalizing them simply because they are the norm. By the grace of God, we need to develop a tenacious resolve to obey Him even when it means looking foolish, being misunderstood, or worse. And, like Joseph, after we’ve identified the attack, sometimes the best thing to do is run.