Summary: The effects of jealousy and bitterness and why forgivesness is so vitally important

Saxlingham/Sharrington/ Swanton Novers


Gen. 37:1-28

Story: Rudyard Kipling’s Vermont Feud (taken in essence from Dale Carnegie’s book How to stop worrying and start living p.81)

Rudyard Kipling married a Vermont girl, Caroline Balestier. He built a beautiful home in Brattleboro, Vermont and settled down there. Indeed he expected to spend the rest of his life living there.

His brother-in-law, Beatty Balestier became Kipling’s best friend and the two of them got on like a house on fire.

Then Kipling bought some land from Balestier, on the understanding that Balestier would be allowed to harvest the hay each season from that field.

One day, Balestier found Kipling laying out a flower garden on this hayfield. And he blew his top. And Kipling reciprocated. As one commentator has put it: “The air turned blue over the Green Mountains of Vermont!!”

A few days later - when Kipling was out riding his bike - his brother-in-law drove a wagon and team of horses so close to Kipling that he fell off his bike.

Kipling wrote the immortal words:

“If you can keep your head

When all about you are losing theirs

And blaming it on you….

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

But when it came to a field of hay - Kipling lost his head.

He charged his brother-in-law with assault and a sensational trial followed. Reporters from all the big cities poured into town. The news flashed around the world.

Nothing however was settled.

And the result of the quarrel caused Kipling and his wife to abandon their beautiful American home for the rest of their lives.

All that bitterness over a field of hay!!

This morning’s OT lesson is (also) a sad story of bitterness and jealousy in a family - a bitterness that would have led to murder – if Reuben, one of Joseph’s brothers had not stepped in to stop it.

Although it is not a modern story – it was written 4,00 years ago it could easily have been lifted from the News of the World.

And it is sobering to think that even God’s chosen people can get it wrong.

Joseph’s brothers became bitter and jealous of him. Not only because he told tales to his father about them - but also because he was his father’s favourite.

And on top of that - he told them of his dreams. Dreams in which he saw his brothers bowing down before him.

Joseph was quite naïve and did not realise that there

are some things that are best left unsaid. And this was one of them.

He obviously had not read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to make friends and influence people”

However, God used these events for good, not only of Joseph but also of his family.

Egypt was the superpower of the day and the climax of the story - which you can read of in Genesis 41 - is that is Joseph rose, by God’s grace to be the second man in the land of Egypt.

And God used Joseph’s position of power to save Jacob and his sons from starvation when seven years of famine hit the area.

But I don’t want to focus on God’s provision this morning; rather I’d like to look at the attitude of

Bitterness and unforgiveness and what that brings to us in life.

In Mt. 6, Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer said:

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us our debtors us.” (Mt. 6:12)

And he went on to say:

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you

But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive yours sins (Mt. 6:14-15)

Unforgiveness is the root of so many conflicts in this world.

No wonder the apostle Paul said:

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. (Eph 4:26)

In other words, don’t let anger and resentment build up. Sort it out immediately and don’t let a root of bitterness take root.

And we just need to switch on the news - to be reminded of the wisdom of Paul’s’ words.

The age old conflicts around the world

i) in Northern Ireland – Catholic against Protestant,

ii) in Bosnia and Kosovo, Orthodox against Muslim

iii) the conflict between India and Pakistan

iv) and sadly the conflict in the Holy Land of Palestinian against Israeli.

Generations of hatred long after the initial cause of the strife has been forgotten.

In my own family I have seen this.

Story: At then end of the Second World War, my Uncle Blasius persuaded my grandmother to give him the farm ahead of his elder brother Wolfgang. Wolfgang and his wife never forgave Blasius and the feud has been carried on by my cousin against Blasius’ daughters – even though Uncle Wolfi is dead!

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