So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with these words, ‘The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came into me to make sport of me; and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.’ Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, ‘This is what your slave did to me,’ his anger burned. So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail,…Genesis 39:16-20
Angry? Really? You think so? The Bible says with regard to Potiphar that, “his anger burned.” That certainly has to make the Top Ten list of greatest understatements. Yeah. I think the man was definitely angry. Let’s put it in perspective. You come home from work one day to find your wife in tears. Before you even have a chance to ask what is wrong she holds up a coat and tells you that your best employee tried to rape her. Now remember, this is not just any run-of-the-mill worker. This was the guy to whom you have entrusted your entire business. He has the “Midas touch.” Under his guidance and care your profits have gone through the roof. Your company has expanded beyond anything you could have ever expected. In fact, the man has done such a remarkable job that you even delegated the daily affairs of your home to him. Everything has been placed in his hands. Everything except your wife. And now she is telling you that he just attempted to violate her.
Keep in my mind that we have an advantage over Potiphar. We know the real story. We know that his wife is lying, that she has been anything but faithful. In fact, Joseph is the true victim in this account. She had attempted to seduce him but he had steadfastly refused. She persisted but he would not relent. Finally, she decided that if she couldn’t have him then no one was going to have him. So, now she looks her husband square in the eye and tells him one lie after another. Don’t forget. He doesn’t know she is pulling one of the greatest deceptions of the OT. Given the circumstances Potiphar reacts like any husband. His wife’s honor is at stake. His trust has been violated. He really has only one choice.
Or does he? Anger has a way of causing us to ignore reason. Anger has a way of causing us to forfeit responsibility. I can’t speak for you but I know there have been many, many times when I made regrettable decisions as a result of “burning anger.” Granted, Potiphar’s circumstances are extreme but the principle remains the same. Anger is not an excuse. Anger is never an excuse. Far too often we react rashly and without any real thought. Something is said to us. Something is done to us. We are hurt. Wounded. Disappointed. Frustrated. We become angry. And rather than putting the pot on the back burner and letting it cool down, we allow the anger to boil over and we lash out. We respond with words and actions that are intended to hurt, to punish the offender. But what happens when we have made the same mistake as Potiphar? Joseph was innocent. Joseph was fully undeserving of his master’s wrath. Potiphar had a reason to be angry. But it wasn’t a reason to imprison an innocent man. Potiphar should have taken the time to check out his wife’s story. In his anger he made a rash decision. He should have acted with greater responsibility.
Anger is a part of life. We will all experience it. We will all encounter it. And yes, there is righteous anger that should have a place in the heart of every believer. But there is also anger that leads to sin. There is an anger that abandons reason, that refuses to accept responsibility, that reacts apart from love. That type of anger has no place in any believer’s life. On a personal note, I am challenging myself to look beyond the reason the next time I am angry. I am asking God to help me act with responsibility rather than simply reacting from my own hurt. People will offend. Life will disappoint. But as His children, we are called to rise above anger. Patience. Understanding. Kindness. Love. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. These should be the marks of His children.