When I read a book more often than not I start placing myself inside the story. I begin to consider how I would react in that situation. Have I ever experienced something like this? Does the author describe my experience or something different? What if I’d responded differently to that person? Could I win where this character loses? Do I have abilities or training that would provide me a alternate outcome?
When I enter the story in this way, it’s almost always as the protagonist, the hero. What would I do if I was Superman? Would I fight Batman? What are the other options?
We like being the heroes and stories give us that opportunity. Stories provide the opportunity to rewrite our lives with a better ending.
This is why we worry about kids that always want to be Lex Luthor on the playground. Who wants to lose all the time? Is he scheming up ways to become a better villain? Is there brooding darkness in his heart?
Since the Bible contains many stories we often find ourselves going through the same process. The run of the mill Sunday School questions encourage this thought process as teachers ask, “What would you have done if you were Judas?” “What do you think Samson was thinking?” “If you were Jesus, how would you have answered this question?”
When we read the story of Joseph, we naturally relate to him. When we struggle with life for no apparent reason, we tell ourselves “God has something better for me just around the corner like He did for Joseph.” If we make tough decisions because of our faith convictions we remind ourselves that “Like Joseph, God will reward me for this decision.”
We convince ourselves that if we embody the faith of Joseph we’ll end up as the 2nd in command of the most powerful nation on earth, like Joseph did. Because, in the story we are Joseph.
But what if we’re wrong?
I know. It’s incomprehensible. But just imagine with me for a moment.
What if the character that represents us in the story is Benjamin? Or his brother Zebulun? What if there are only a few people in history that God treats like Joseph? What if most people are like Benjamin?
Joseph, his father and his brothers talk about Benjamin extensively, but Benjamin never says a word. He’s key to the story, but doesn’t actually do anything. Joseph protects him (along with his brothers) and provides food and a new land for his family. All Benjamin is required to do to accomplish God’s greater purpose is to marry and have children so that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can become a great nation.
If we’re Joseph our motto might be “God wants me to do great things for Him.”
Benjamin might say, “God wants me to be faithful for Him.”
Joseph summarises his life (50:20) saying “God’s using me to save many lives.”
Benjamin might say, “God’s using me to provide for my family.”
More of us will have lives like Benjamin than Joseph. God loves us. God guides and protects us. God died for us. God simply longs for us to go through life faithfully honoring Him.
Jacob and his eleven sons needed Joseph. The people of Egypt and surrounding nations needed Joseph. Pharaoh needed Joseph. But Joseph needed his brothers. God needed all twelve of Jacob’s sons to fulfill his plan for the redemption of humanity. Joseph just lived in a brighter spotlight than Benjamin.
When we’re in a pit. When we’re falsely accused. When life’s tough. God hasn’t forgotten us. But God doesn’t necessarily have a greater responsibility in store for us. Sometimes His blessing is to give us the strength to get through the hardship in a way that maintains our faith and brings honor to God.
Are you okay being Benjamin?
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” Luke 16:10a