Compassion In Desperate Places

Genesis 40:5-7, “Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night,… When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected. He asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in confinement in his master’s house, ‘Why are your faces so sad today?’

It is really easy to do. Most of us do it effortlessly without hardly a second thought. It’s natural. It’s human. In fact, it is not a learned behavior at all. Children master the ability without any help from their parents. It doesn’t require a teacher, a coach, or a personal trainer. To be entirely honest (and I say this in all humility) I actually consider myself a professional. I could teach classes, write a book, and even lead a seminar on the subject. Yes, I will admit it…I have mastered the art of being selfish.

Self. Our world is obsessed with self. Ask most people to list the 3 most important people in their life and they will answer without hesitation, “Me. Myself. And I.” Our world view has been minimized to the mirror’s reflection. “How does it benefit me?” has become the question that defines our culture. Even Narcissus shakes his head in unbelief when he looks at us. Sadly, there is not much that separates the church from the world these days. The message of self denial has become all but forgotten in most Christian circles. We have begun to move dangerously close to a theology that actually believes that God is here to serve us. With our mouths we confess that He made the universe but in our hearts we still believe that we are at it’s center.

On days like today I am reminded of the incredible words of challenge found in Philippians. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Joseph had every reason to drown himself in selfish thinking. His life had been defined by hurt and rejection at the hands of selfish people. From the time that his father had first gifted him with the coat of many colors he had constantly found himself standing before people whose only thoughts were for themselves. Now here is he languishing in an Egyptian prison. No hope of release. No hope of escape. No hope of ever seeing his father again. Both his future and destiny were limited to the space within the walls of his prison. Yeah, I would not have faulted Joseph at all if he had chosen to be selfish.

But Joseph chose a different path. Even in a place filled with desperation he managed to keep his perspective. He continued to love God. And He continued to love people. No one would have blamed him if he had simply ignored Pharaoh’s servants. After all, Joseph is in prison. Self-preservation would have been expected. And yet, he noticed them. He approached them. He spoke to them. And he offered to help them. The man who had known only betrayal and injustice chose to respond with compassion. Joseph understood that the circumstances of life should be powerless to change our core values. Just because things go bad doesn’t give us an excuse to start treating people bad. At all times and in all places we are His people. And as His people we are called to love other people. Not just on the good days. But even on the bad ones. I am praying that God will continue to change me. My longing is that like Joseph, that I would be a man of compassion even in desperate places. My prayer is that my words would bring healing, that my hands would offer help, and that my life would show forth the compassion of Christ.