Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.
—Genesis 37:3

The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 27:2. “Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.” This tells us a lot about Joseph’s character. To put it bluntly, Joseph was a tattletale. Joseph loved bringing bad news about his brothers to his father. Why was that?

We find the answer in verse 3: “Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age.” Jacob favored his son Joseph. One of the great dangers of showing favoritism toward a child is not only what it does to your other children but what it does to the favored child. Whenever you favor one child over the other, it breeds insecurity in that child because that child feels like he has to continue to earn his favored position in the family. That is what Joseph was doing here. He thought, “I’m the favorite son. So I have to maintain that position by bringing juicy pieces of gossip about my brothers to my dad.”

In favoring Joseph over the other brothers, Jacob was repeating a mistake his father, Isaac, had made. Isaac favored Jacob’s brother, Esau, over Jacob. I’m sure Jacob resented that. Deep down he probably thought, “When I am a dad, I will never make the mistake my father made.” Have you ever said that about your parents? Here is a principle to remember: what we contemplate, we imitate. The more we think about the wrong someone has done against us, the more likely we are to repeat that mistake in our life. When Joseph came in with this piece of news, Jacob should have shaken his head and said, “Joseph, I don’t want to hear that. I love you just the same as my other sons. You don’t have to tattle on them.” But he didn’t do that. Instead, Jacob did the worst thing he could have done as a parent; he encouraged it.

Verse 3 says that Jacob made Joseph “a varicolored tunic.” He encouraged Joseph to continue this behavior by making him a special coat. And every time Joseph’s brothers saw him strutting around in that coat, the anger and resentment welled up in them. They hated Joseph because his special coat symbolized the favoritism in their family. Jacob obviously favored Joseph above his brothers, and Joseph took advantage of the benefits that came along with that favoritism. This is a lesson to us parents: be careful not to show favoritism to your children.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living a Life That Matters: The Life of Joseph” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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