Big brother, little brother

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the end of Genesis.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I spent several posts wondering about the transformation of Israel (the person, not the nation.)

I had this idea that maybe Joseph was the end of a dysfunctional legacy of parents showing favortism.  There was this generations-long pattern of people seeking their own selfish interest even at the expense of family, more specifically, there was this pattern of younger siblings attempting to cheat older siblings out inheritances.  I thought maybe Joseph was the first biblical figure to get past that.  He certainly had his act together better than his dad and brothers!

But near the death of Joseph’s dad, Joseph presents his sons to him.  And Joseph engages in the same manipulation that’s gone on before, criss-crossing his dad’s hands in a blessing so that the youngest recieves the blessing intended for the oldest and vice-versa.

The more things change…

As I’ve tried to come to terms with what this is all about, I’ve been pondering some things.  We have the privilige of looking at the “Old Testament” through a lense that the ancients did not posess.

One of the most powerful aspects of Jesus’ teachings is sometimes called “The Third Way.”  Over and over again, Jesus is confronted with a multiple choice test.   The world presents us with two options.  Upon close inspection, these options are usually equally lousy.  Jesus solution, over and over again, is to give a solution that’s bigger than the question itself, that’s not limited to the narrow vision implied by the choices.  Jesus is asked “Which should we choose, A or B” And Jesus says “Choose C.”

Here’s how this connects up:

The world says that the eldest should recieve everything.  There are others who say that the youngest should get everything.  Or they say we should buck tradition for the sake of bucking tradition.  Or that it should be merit-based, and the offspring who somehow is “the best” (Whatever that means) deserves to recieve everything.

And the one who gets everything should be able to hoard his inheritance,or to spend it selfishly.

Through Jesus, we Christians are in fact the younger offspring.  And there is this strain of Christian thought that says “We are entitled to steal the inheritance which by traiditon would go to the oldest sibling: The Jews.  And once this inheritance is stolen, we are entitled to squander and hoard this inheritance in any way we wish.”

Jesus, I think, would reject the whole notion.   I think he would say that the traditionalists are wrong: and those who fight for the rights of the youngest sibling are wrong.

Jesus, I think, would say that like everything else, none of us truly owns our inheritance.  We prove whether or not we are legitimate care takers by what we do with it.  It does not matter if we are the older or younger siblings.  If we hoard it or squander it, we were not worthy caretakers. 

The question of who inherits what ends up having no practical value if we’re obliged to share it as soon as we recieve it.   Joseph ended up moving in the right direction.  He offered forgiveness and safety to his family.  But he didn’t have Jesus available in the same way that we do.  He was as lost without Him as all of us are.