Summary: Joseph had to learn that what God thinks of him was more important than what others thought of him. It was more important than his reputation. It gave him a new identity.
Getting a Bad Rep
December 16, 2007
Last week we say how John was born to be wild. This week as we rediscover Christmas, we are going to examine a crucial figure in the Christmas story: Joseph. I will begin with a story about a woman named Margaret.
Margaret was in her forties and suffered from bouts of depression and despair resulting mainly from an extremely poor self-image. She just couldn’t see herself as a person of worth. Over the years of her adult life, this image steadily grew worse. Finally reaching out in desperation, she sought the help of a counselor. It was here that she revealed what had happened long ago.
When she was a child, she was pretty average. She received decent grades in school. She was fairly happy. She was liked by her fellow students. That was until one soul-scarring day almost forty years ago. From the first day of class, Margaret and Ms. Garner, her bitter and harsh teacher, didn’t get along. They butted heads constantly. The conflict in this one-room schoolhouse escalated over the years until one fateful day when Margaret was nine-years-old.
That day Margaret frantically raced into class after recess, late again. Ms. Garner was furious. “Margaret!” she shouted, “we’ve been waiting for you! Get up here to the front of the class, right now!”
Margaret slowly walked to teacher’s desk and was told to face the class and then the nightmare began.
Ms. Garner ranted, “Boys and girls, Margaret has been a bad girl. I’ve tried to help her to be responsible but she doesn’t want to learn. We have to teach her a lesson. We will force her to see how selfish she is. I want each one of you to come to the board and write something bad about Margaret. May this will motivate her to be a better person!”
Margaret stood frozen as the students, one by one, began a silent procession to the blackboard. One by one they wrote life-smothering words, slowly extinguishing the light in Margaret’s soul. “Margaret is stupid! Margaret is selfish! Margaret is fat! Margaret is a dummy!” On and on they went, until twenty-five scribblings of Margaret’s “badness” screamed from the board.
It was the longest day of her life. The venomous sentences taunted Margaret as each caustic word was written on her soul. When she got home, she crawled into bed, claiming sickness, and tried to cry the pain away, but the pain never left, and forty years later, she was slumped in a chair in the psychologists’s office cringing in the shadow of those twenty-five sentences. Slowly, Margaret became exactly what the students had written.
Margaret’s teacher knew exactly what she was doing. She knew the power of name-calling. She knew that the children’s taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a lie!! What people think of us does make a difference in how we see ourselves. Joseph also learned this lesson.
Knowing the Difference
Reputation – what others think of us
Identity – who we really are
Margaret slowly let the words of her fellow students tell her who she really was. Joseph had to learn the difference between the two and he had to learn this very important principle:
What God thinks of us is more important than what we think of ourselves or what others think of us.
Repeat that with me. What God thinks of us is more important than what we think of ourselves or what others think of us. Say it again. This might be something you need to repeat to yourself over and over until it becomes permanent. This is why I have these cards that say this phrase. Put it on your mirror or your dresser or on the dashboard of your car. Where ever it takes to remind you of this fact. What God thinks of us is more important than what we think of ourselves or what others think of us.
Joseph had to learn this. So let’s look at who Joseph was.
Who was Joseph?
1. He was a tsadiq.
The scripture says that Joseph was a “righteous” man. Literally the Hebrew word is “tsadiq.” This means that Joseph meticulously observed the Torah. He constantly recited the Shema and lived it. (Love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength). He supported the synagogue, followed the food laws, and celebrated the high holy feast days in Jerusalem. He was on his way to being a respected leader and elder in his family and in his hometown. He had a great reputation. He couldn’t be any better unless he had been a priest, a prophet or a messiah.
2. His reputation was challenged.