Day 152: Favor and Envy

Genesis 37:1-11

Jacob lived in the land of his father’s travels, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a coat of many colors.
His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and couldn’t speak peaceably to him.

Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: for be old, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves came around, and bowed down to my sheaf.”

His brothers said to him, “Will you indeed reign over us? Or will you indeed have dominion over us?” They hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words. He dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed yet another dream: and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.” He told it to his father and to his brothers. His father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves down to you to the earth?” His brothers envied him, but his father kept this saying in mind.

Favor is a hard subject for us. In some places, there are laws in place to stop favoritism, but is favor bad? What does the Bible really say about favor and favoritism?

Well, we see here that God gave Joseph dreams that his brothers didn’t get to have. God can’t be evil, yet he singled out Joseph in front of his brothers to receive these special dreams. Jacob, on the other hand, was only a man. He also singled out Joseph and gave him special clothing. Was Jacob wrong to show favoritism?

I believe that the reason that this sounds like an inconsistency to us is because we fail to see that favor is inevitable. The secular world today is worshiping the fallacious idea called “neutrality.” Another way to say this is that the secular world today shows favoritism toward those who believe in neutrality. This statement proves that the philosophy of neutrality is self-refuting.

What I’m trying to demonstrate is that it isn’t favor that is the problem. The problem is the person who does the favoring. If a bad person favors something, then that which they favor could be bad. If a good person favors something, then it is always a good thing. Why we favor something is the real issue. We may question God as to why He favors people, but, as we shall see in the story of Joseph, we would be wrong to think evil of God.

The Bible tells us that Jacob was favoring Joseph because “he was the son of his old age.” This is not a good reason because God doesn’t show favor to people based on His
age, as ridiculous as that would be, but there is a bigger problem here. Envy is always a bad thing and that is what Joseph’s brothers were doing. No matter how much favoritism Joseph was shown, there was no excuse for his brothers to envy. This was the sin that caused the first murder. This is the sin that Satan himself committed in order to supplant God.

Notice that Jacob rebuked Joseph for the dream that God had given him. It is hypocritical to be showing favor yourself and then rebuke God for his favor. This tells me that Jacob knew that his favoritism was wrong. Could it be that God was teaching Jacob a lesson here?

Sometimes, being the one that God favors brings trouble. Look at all of the trouble the Jews have. They are God’s chosen people according to the Bible. The real problem continues to be envy and God will not let that go unpunished. We are definitely not in any place to tell God that He is wrong about who He favors. Instead we should ask Him for mercy. If we do, He has promised that he will show His favor to us.