Friday, April 14, 2023

Typhoons and Temptresses

Suggested Reading: Genesis 39:1-10

In Karate Kid, Part II, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi go to Okinawa to visit Mr. Miyagi's dying father. Almost immediately upon arriving they both find themselves confronted by angry rivals seeking to demonstrate how much better they are than the heroes of the movie. Near the climax of the film, in the middle of a typhoon, Daniel's rival, Chozen, refuses to go help a little girl caught in the storm. Instead, Daniel has to save her. Upon seeing Chozen's cowardice and his refusal to help the little girl, his mentor Sato tells him, "Now, to me, you are dead." Chozen had wronged the little girl and her family by not helping but, worse, he had dishonored Sato by being a coward. Sato took Chozen's failure to help the little girl as a sin against himself.

As odd as that interchange may seem to most Americans, a similar kind of honor can been seen throughout scripture. In Genesis 39, Joseph, whose brothers had sold him into slavery, had worked his way up through the ranks at his owner's home and Potiphar had placed him in charge of everything. Potiphar's wife took notice of Joseph and repeatedly tried to seduce him. Joseph's response to her is found in Genesis 39:8-9: Look, my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. No one in this house is greater than I am. He was withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God? (HCSB).

For Joseph, while sleeping with his master's wife would be wrong because of his relationship with her husband, Joseph spoke of the situation as a sin against God, not his master. Joseph would not have denied that sleeping with this woman was a sin against her husband, but he understood something deeper and more important: maintaining our integrity must be seen first, and foremost, in terms of our relationship with God.  If we are only concerned about not hurting people or not sinning against people, there may be times we think we can get away with something because no one will never find out. We can cheat on our spouse on a business trip because we are 300 miles away and she will never know. We can fudge our mileage when listing our tax deductions because no one will be able to prove us wrong. But that thinking only works if our focus is on the people involved. When we turn to consider God, who holds us accountable whether people know or not, who sees every hidden act and every desire of our hearts, we must view our behavior in a different light.

While it is important that we avoid hurting people and that we honor people's trust, it is more important that we live a life of integrity before God. We must remember that we ultimately reflect the One who sees everything we do and think, even if no one else ever knows. Does what you do in secret bring God shame or reflect his glory?

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