Friday, April 19, 2013
Today’s Topic: Tell the Truth for Good
Today’s Text: Genesis 37:2 (ESV) And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.
Nobody likes a tattletale. The problem is that we have allowed pride to define what a tattletale does or is.
You see, telling the truth can be motivated either by personal gain or by the desire to see good come to others. But when someone tells the truth about us, we generally don’t believe they have our good in mind. We believe they are trying to hurt us in some way so they can improve their own image and status. While that may be true in some cases, we must not assume it is always true.
The very beginning of the story of Joseph illustrates this. At seventeen years of age, Joseph was much younger than his brothers. The very first statement we have about Joseph’s life is that he brought a bad report about his brothers to his father. We have all seen this happen with siblings in our own families. The younger ones love to bring bad reports to the parents or grandparents about the activities of the older ones. It is generally motivated by a sense of jealousy or a feeling of being left out, but the tattletale behaviors happen often.
It would be natural for his brothers to think that Joseph was trying to better his own position with their father. We may even believe that ourselves, and think less of Joseph than we should. But this seventeen year old boy was respected by his father for telling the truth in love, and he was rewarded for his pure motives of wanting good for others.
First, his father rewarded him by making him a special coat. I understand that there is no specific connection in the story of the coat to the report that was given, yet the Holy Spirit chose to put those two events in sequence and I think that is significant. When the brothers saw the coat, and realized that it probably meant their father believed the report that Joseph had brought against them, they hated Joseph and would not speak a kind word to him any longer.
How sad that we so quickly break relationships and even retaliate against those who are ultimately seeking our good simply because we don’t like the truth being told about what we have done. Our pride is powerful, and when it appears that our worth, image, status, or future could be negatively affected by the truth being told, we take the side of self-protection rather than truth.
Second, I believe that Joseph’s father respected him and knew that his motives for telling the truth were pure because later, in Genesis 37:14, Jacob sends Joseph on another fact-finding mission. So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” Jacob knew that Joseph would bring him honest information about the status of his brothers and the flocks. Joseph was respected because he could be trusted to tell the truth, not for his own good, but for the good of others.
We must consider how we respond when we know someone is watching us and is making reports about us. If we are living in pride and believe to any degree that we are responsible to protect our image and status, then we will react as the brothers did and not only begin to hate the messenger but also to attempt to eliminate the threat. But if we are humble and truly believe that the truth is what sets us free from the bondage of pride and self-fulfillment, then we will accept the correction of others who love us enough to tell us and others the truth.
Tattletales are not always bad, but let’s change their names to truth-tellers, and let’s honor them as instruments of God for our growth and our good. Then let’s all become such truth-tellers, who never speak the truth with the intent to benefit self, but only speak the truth when it will truly benefit others.