“She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But [Joseph] left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.”
The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, once told a story of a woman who was in need of a new cab driver. She decided to interview three men for the position and simply ask them one question, “How close to danger can you drive and still be safe?” The first man answered, “I can drive as near as a foot away from a building without fear of an accident.” The woman dismissed him without remark. She asked the same question to the next man, and he answered, “I can drive within a hair’s breadth, and still skillfully avoid any mishap.” Like the first, she dismissed this man as well. Finally, she posed the same question to the third man, and he replied, “Madam, I have never tried. It has always been a rule with me to drive as far from danger as I possibly can.” The lady hired him at once.
It seems that Joseph thought like the third man. Rather than seeing how near to danger he could get without sinning, he was determined to flee from danger at all costs…even if it meant running through the streets naked. The question is why though, why was Joseph so determined to flee danger? Was it because he loved and respected the man for whom he worked? In part, yes, for we know that the master of the house had elevated Joseph to a high position and put everything at his charge (Gen 39:8–9). However, Joseph himself tells us the main reason why he would not lie with Potiphar’s wife, saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). Joseph was determined to please God. He loved the Lord and did not care to figure out how close to danger he could get without sinning, but rather he desired to flee danger and please God.
You see, every sin is first and foremost an offense against God. If Joseph had slept with Potiphar’s wife, it certainly would have been a sin against Potiphar, but first and foremost, it would have been a sin against God. Joseph understood that sin is never simple. It always goes beyond just an action or just a harsh word; sin always goes beyond just an individual; sin is always first and foremost an offense against God—His holiness, His righteousness, His character, His will, His desires, His provision. Out of his great love for and fear of God, Joseph refused to sin against Him. Thankfully, God has provided the solution for our sinfulness and sinful tendencies. Because He knows how much we struggle with sin, how much we desire sin, how much we are tempted by sin, how incapable we are of keeping His law and His ways, He sent His Son to live the righteous, obedient life we fail to live. Jesus kept the law for us. He was perfectly obedient to the Father. By repentance and faith in Him and His finished work, we are born again. God causes us to be born again. Jesus’ obedience is credited to us. He gives us new hearts and new desires. We now delight in keeping the ways of the Lord—we love to obey Him—it’s the desire of our hearts (1 John 5:3).
Yet many Christians today play with fire and expect not to get burned. They ask themselves, “How far is too far?” They ask, “Would it be a sin if I…?” People are always looking for loopholes. So many Christians want to know how much they can get away with without repercussions instead of considering how they can most honor God in their lives. Which mentality do you have? Are you the type of person who thinks first and foremost about how you can most honor God in your life, and how you can live a life most pleasing to Him? Or do you think about the loopholes? Are you most interested in how much you can get away with without punishment? Are you most curious about how far is too far, or what technically counts as a sin? Rather than being like the first two potential cab drivers, trying to figure out how close you can get to danger without injury, we should strive to be like Joseph and like Jesus and flee from danger, seeking to please God in our lives. We need to think through tough issues, not so that we can determine how close we can get to danger without sinning, but rather so that we will know how we can best glorify and please God. Do you want to know how close to danger you can get without repercussions? Or are you committed to honoring and serving God? Is it the desire of your heart not to sin against God? Are you willing to flee from danger at all costs? My prayer for all of us is that we think about how we can honor and glorify God most with our actions, our words, our thoughts, and our desires, so that we might not sin against Him.