Joseph’s Second Coat (Genesis 39)
I love the story of Joseph – there’s such a deep richness of meaning to it. We all know about the first coat Joseph had, the coat of many colors; there was even a Broadway musical about it. It represented Joseph’s pride that stood between him and the amazing future God had planned for him. But he also had a second coat, and it’s this one that’s perhaps more important for Christ-followers. That’s the coat Joseph lost when he was fleeing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. For a Christian, it represents the coat of spiritual self-righteousness: I’m a child of God, I’m all set, I’ve got this Christian thing nailed down, I don’t need anything else. At this point we know that God has saved us, set us free from the old life, but there’s still a strong tendency toward pride – proof that God isn’t done with us yet. That’s when we’re the most dangerous. That kind of Christian is the one people hate – the ones who are still boasting, still full of themselves, etc. At this point in our walk, God has blessed us, at least in some ways, but that leads us to believe we’ve arrived. So our confidence is still in self rather than in God. We can see pride in others but not in ourselves; till we humble ourselves enough to take the log out of our own eye, we can’t see with God’s vision enough to help others in any deep way. We are still like the disciples before the Cross – still thinking about their place in the Kingdom – their shot at personal glory – rather than the Glorious One. We’re still in need of God to strip us bare; we know Christ died for us, but we haven’t yet learned to die with him. So, like Joseph, God takes away the next layer, the second coat – often in a confusing, humiliating and seemingly unfair way, like with Potiphar’s wife. A person going through this can totally relate to Christ’s beatitude about being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. But that beatitude comes only after the ones about becoming poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and pure in heart. Perhaps it’s true that we’re being persecuted for our righteousness, but can we see that God is behind it all, testing us, refining us like gold? Our response to such mistreatment indicates our level of spirituality – whether it’s mostly self with a prideful veneer of belonging to Jesus, or truly acting in the righteousness of Christ. Joseph was meek about what happened; rather than rail arrogantly about the unfairness of it all, he submitted to God’s shepherding. And because of his humility and servanthood, God in his love raised Joseph up to a place of honor, where he could be a great blessing to many people, even to nations. We each have to ask ourselves: Am I willing to let him strip me of my second Joseph’s coat, the inner coat of Christian self-righteousness?