Have you ever been treated unfairly? For those who have, you know one thing – it stinks. Few things in life sting as much than to know you’ve been trampled on and treated unfairly.
Unfairness is a part of life. We do a good job of teaching this concept to children when they whine and complain about some unfair situation in their world. What parent or teacher at some point hasn’t responded to the “That’s-not-fair” line coming off the lips of a child with the phrase, “Life’s not fair, kid…get over it”, or some variation thereof.
But adults hate being treated unfairly just as much as children do. And perhaps, if the truth be told, adults have a harder time dealing with it. For the most part, kids see the injustice, accept it and move on because that is what they are told to do. Adults do not go as quietly into the night.
Adults want the wrong to be made right. To have justice done. To get what is rightfully theirs, including their good name back. And maybe, just maybe, to get revenge.
So what do you do when you’ve been treated unfairly? Is the path a child takes better? Or should an adult stand their ground, looking for justice to be served?
Besides Jesus, there may be no other Biblical character treated more unfairly, in multiple ways, for a consistent amount of time than Joseph. His life was filled with it, to the point that one would think it was his life’s curse. But there are lessons to how he dealt with being treated unfairly that we can learn from.
Joseph: A Life Full of Being Treated Unfairly
Joseph’s entire life story is found in Genesis 37-50. He’s a major player in the Old Testament historical narrative and in the history of Israel. So many lessons can be pulled from his story, but this one thing we do know – he was treated so unfairly, it would have been tragic had not God been working through it all.
How was Joseph treated unfairly? You’ll have to read his entire story to get the full details, but to summarize:
- His father Jacob loved him more than his other sons. He put Joseph on a pedestal of importance above his brothers. This did not allow Joseph to have a normal childhood, driving a wedge in the relationship with his brothers.
- Joseph’s brothers hated him for the reason stated above. One day when their father wasn’t looking, the brothers captured Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt.
- As a slave Joseph found favor in the eyes of his master Potiphar. He also found favor in the eyes of Potiphar’s wife, who continually tried to seduce Joseph. Joseph continually resisted her sexual advances. But one day, when he would not give into her temptation, she cried out to her servants and accused him of rape.
- Thrown in prison after the incident with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph interprets a dream for a fellow prisoner (Pharaoh’s butler) that comes true. The butler is restored to Pharaoh’s service but forgets to put in a good word for Joseph, something he had promised he would do.
Joseph’s life is one bad mistreatment after another. He could have wilted through it all – given in and given up. But the way he handled these situations is astonishing.
Joseph’s Reactions to Being Treated Unfairly
We can only take the Bible for what it actually says about Joseph’s life. So we don’t know in his quiet, all-alone moments how Joseph felt or what emotions he was going through. He was human, so more than likely he’d be dealing with the same doubts and confusion and feelings all humans would have dealt with had they been in his shoes.
But from what we do know from the pages of the Bible, Joseph’s reactions to his situations are striking.
What Joseph Didn’t Do. He Never…
- Complained about a situation
- Became bitter at life, people or God from his circumstances
- Held a grudge on those who had wronged him
- Sought revenge (even later in the narrative when he had the power to do so)
- Stopped serving someone
- Blamed God and turned from him
What Joseph Did Do. He…
- Obeyed those in authority over him (his father, his master Potiphar, the jailer and God)
- Looked for a positive opportunity in every situation
- Allowed God to use him even through suffering
- Persevered through it
- Facilitated restoration with his brothers who had wrong him
- Trusted in God’s bigger plan (See Gen. 50:19-21)
Joseph’s Positive Example
Joseph surely endured some down moments as lived through these situations where he was treated unfairly. After all, he was human. He had emotions, felt the sting of rejection and probably wondered what it all meant. Not until the end of the story did he really know.
But through it all one thing remained – his relationship with God. Joseph never wavered there. He did not allow whatever feelings he was experiencing to cloud his judgment or lesson his faith.
In his mind, it was clear. His life was to be used by God and for God no matter who treated him unfairly. In that regard, he is such a positive example for us all.
Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: Have you ever been treated unfairly? If so, how did you respond in the situation? Was there anything about the situation you had a hard time overcoming?