Saturday, October 15, 2011

Joseph Provides for His Father’s Household - Genesis 47:11-12

So Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered.  And Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones.

What a far cry this is from what occurs today in many households.  Recently I read about an older parent, left on her own, who was suing her son and daughter-in-law for not properly taking care of her in her old age, especially since the two of them had done very well ranching.  In my own city of Toronto with its very cold winters, a son and his wife pleaded guilty to having his mother live in an improperly insulated garage converted into a room for her without heat or proper bathroom facilities.  I’ve seen well-off children who became what they were because of the sacrifices of their parents allow their aged mother and/or father to live in nursing homes that left much to be desired.  God certainly did not intend for us to treat each other that way, especially in our own family.

Joseph’s behavior here is exemplary in how he treated not only his aged father, but also his brothers, who by the way, had previously intended to do him great harm.

There is an interesting phrase in this passage as well.  Joseph gave them “a possession in the land of Egypt”.  This was not just a simple, “go live there for now” or “lease that property” or “rent it”.  Rather, scripture tells us that Joseph gave it to them under the order of Pharaoh as an inheritance, for the root word used here is translated as to property coming via inheritance and now being owned by those that receive as such.

The application of this point for us as Christians is also interesting.  In our travels during our lifetime here on earth, we will indeed be given or we will amass property and other material good that will be deemed, without challenge, to be “our inheritance” or “our possessions”.  As we unfold the story of the Israelites in Egypt, we will see that although they had ‘rights’ in Egypt as this passage implies, there was no point in getting too attached to their possessions at all.  It is the same for the Christian.  We would do well to ask ourselves how closely we are literally ‘bound’ to our various legally owned assets.

Finally, we note that Joseph provided for his father’s entire household in accordance “to their little ones.  That means proportionally.  The bigger the household was, the bigger the provision to that part of the family would be.  As one whose career was in Human Resources, I know that many years ago many employers did pay people differently based on their need.  For example, a young single healthy man would make less money than an older family man, married, and with several children.  The latter’s need was greater.  That was legal and acceptable, perhaps in keeping with this part of scripture and others.  But as the years wore on, laws of equal pay for equal work, and later, equal pay for work of equal value, were introduced that prevented people from addressing the greater needs of one employee over another.  And in a world which is not based on a godly worldview perspective that is understandable.  As Christian employers we are required to follow the laws of our land.  At the same time, however, it behooves us to keep in mind God’s general principle of taking care of others in accordance with their need, to the extent that we can do so, within the law, and perhaps outside of the ‘employer-employee’ relationship.

Still the major message for us in these two verses is that we do have a responsibility for our families beyond those living under our roof.   It is my prayer we have not talked ourselves out of that because of circumstances.

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