We are all familiar with the story of Joseph. Next to the story of Jesus’ betrayal at the hands of Judas, this is perhaps the most notorious example of betrayal seen in Scripture. At the age of 17, Joseph is assaulted by his brothers, stripped of his coat of many colors which was given to him by his father, thrown into an empty pit, and then sold as a slave into the land of Egypt where he would live alone while his aged father would be convinced that his precious son was dead. From this account we can learn many principles about dealing with betrayal that can help us to successfully recover from the pain of betrayal that often occurs in life.
Before we look at the actual event of Joseph’s betrayal, let’s first answer the question, “Why?” Why would his brothers do such a cruel and vicious thong to their younger sibling? It seems so extreme – but often, betrayal is fleshed out in very extreme ways.
If you look at all the reasons behind this assault, you will find at its very foundation the root cause of jealousy. Most often, the act of betrayal stems from an inner attitude of jealousy. Unfortunately, today jealousy has become one of the more respectable sins resulting in our failing to really understand how dangerous and how devastating it can be. You see, jealousy never stays at just jealousy. If left unchecked, jealousy always grows into something worse. Jealousy is internal but what it leads to is external.
Jealousy almost always leads to envy. What’s the difference? When you have something I wish were mine - that is jealousy. When I don’t want you to have it either and I try to deprive you of it - that is envy. For example, if you drove into the church parking lot with a brand new SUV, full loaded, right off the lot, an $80,000 vehicle, and I wished that vehicle were mine – that would be jealousy. But if after watching you drive to church in that vehicle for several weeks, I snuck outside during one of the worship services and slashed the tires of that SUV and poured sugar into the gas tank so that you could not drive it either – that would be envy. And it doesn’t stop there.
If continued to go on unchecked, envy will then grow into hatred. At this stage, I don’t just wish your vehicle were mine. At this point, I no longer simply try to deprive you of having the vehicle. Now I develop an inner anger toward you as a person because you have the vehicle and I don’t. And this hatred ultimately leads to malice. At this point I am prone to take actions against you that I never dreamed I would ever be able to do. That’s what happened with Joseph’s brothers. It followed this very cycle.
We see a jealousy toward Joseph because he was their father’s favorite son and because of his dreams that showed them bowing down to him. Genesis 5:11 says,
“His brothers were jealous of him.”
We see envy as they strip the very tunic off of Joseph that had become a symbol of his father’s love for him. Genesis 37:23 says,
“So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him.”
We see hatred in their heart and in their actions toward Joseph. Genesis 37:4 tells us,
“His brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms."
We then see malice as they resort to the unthinkable. They throw him in an empty pit and ultimately sell him into slavery in Egypt while at the same time leading their father to believe that he had been killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:24, 28, 31-33).
Their jealousy changed to envy which grew to hatred which resulted in malice. This is the path of betrayal. It should be a huge warning to each of us of our need to protect and guard our own heart from any hint of jealousy toward another. First Corinthians 13:4 teaches us that true Biblical love is not jealous. Whenever we allow a seed of jealousy to exist in our life toward another individual we are starting down a path that, if left unchecked, will lead to envy, hatred, malice and finally, betrayal.