The second time Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt to buy grain, they are sent to Joseph’s house. This causes some comedic (to me, at least) dialog among themselves.
And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” (Gen. 43:18)(ESV)
They are worried about their donkeys. While they were certainly important and would allow them to carry back more grain than they could carry by themselves, its a strange bookend to their list of worst case scenarios. If they were assaulted and made into slaves, their pack animals would be as useful as a blind man’s pair of contact lenses.
“Reuben, what if they beat us and we become slaves?!”
“Not sure, Levi. I only hope the donkeys will come out of it alright. As long as they’re OK, we’ll be OK.”
Levi nods his head. “Yes, I hope the God of our fathers grants the donkeys safe passage through this situation. Everything rests on them!”
But what actually happens?
The brothers are welcomed. They are pampered. Their feet are washed and they feast with the second most powerful man in Egypt (or the world), drinking and being merry. And the donkeys they were so worried about are fed and taken care of.
This is one of those mirrors in Scripture that show us ourselves in high resolution.
In fear and doubt, we hold on to garbage scraps, not realizing that God has a feast prepared for us if only we would throw the scraps away. Scraps have no place at the table of God.
Or we cling to the worn, dirty rags covering our bodies. God is ready to dress us in royal robes and place a crown upon our head, and we ask “But what about my rags?” How pathetic we must look.
And yet he loves us. Not only that, he wants to flood us with blessings.
In Luke 18:18-30, after the rich ruler goes away sorrowful because he has many possessions, Peter boasts on behalf of all the disciples: “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.” We have done what this ruler did not do. Aren’t we special?
And Jesus answers him: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Stop bragging. You are simply trading for treasure that is worth many times more than what you are giving up. What you gave up is nothing in comparison to what you will receive.
Paul seems to echo this in Phil. 3:8
I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ
We need to realize that, when we worry and cling to the things in this life for security – our houses, our savings accounts, our investment portfolios, our jobs, our government, our youth, western medicine – we are clinging to dung. We need to release our tight grips, before the grip becomes reality in true rigor mortis.
But when we relax our grip, we will be blessed beyond our wildest dreams. God even tells us to test him in this:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10)
Like Joseph’s brothers, we are okay with being slaves just as long as nothing happens to our donkeys. God is ready replace your scraps with feasting, your rags with robes, and your sorrow with joy.
So let go of your scraps and rags. And don’t worry about the donkeys.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Luke 12:22-31)