Sin is much more than a list of the things we do wrong. Sin is a power that resides in the human heart. John Owen said, “Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” The compulsions of the human heart manifest themselves in a number of ways here in Joseph’s story.
Coveting and envying
“His brothers were jealous of him” (Gen. 37:11). God said Joseph would be lifted up, and his brothers didn’t want him to have that. When someone else receives a blessing, one of two temptations will come to you—coveting or envying. Coveting is wanting what they have; envying is not wanting them to have what they have been given. Coveting wants to gain something for yourself; envying wants to deny something to someone else. Envy grows from a root of resentment toward God that lurks in the human heart. We don’t want the loved and favored Son to be exalted and rule over us.
“They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him” (37:18). Before Joseph ever gets near, the brothers had already made their decision about him. Likewise, it is a great mistake to make decisions about God when you are still far from Him. If you would let God come near and speak to you, you would end up taking a better path. Sin has an erosive effect on the conscience and in the heart, which is why sinning gets easier over time. The more you sin, the easier it gets to sin more.
“Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him” (37:20). The sons engaged in a great deception with their father. Some people live in open defiance of God, but most people are much more subtle. They present themselves as loyal sons. They place a mask of religion over their resistance to the claims of Jesus Christ. They come to worship and lie to God.
Ask God for the grace to resist these compulsions.