In the story of Joseph being tempted by Potiphar’s wife, we see Joseph do a third thing which a person of good character practices. He used his head and thought it through.

After saying, ‘No!’, Joseph began to give reasons why he was not going to cave in to this sin.  “Why my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care…My master has withheld nothing from me…How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God.”

Joseph gives 3 reasons why he can’t do this: 1) He’ll break his master’s trust.  2) He’ll lose everything he has earned and forfeit the privileges and power he now enjoys.  3) The biggest reason of all – if he did this, he’d be sinning against God. Joseph didn’t want to break God’s heart, lose his favor and incur his judgment.

When God tells us to do something or not to do something, usually there are very good reasons why God has said this.  God’s not a kill-joy.  He’s not out to make you miserable.  He really does want your life to be blessed.  So when he gives you a commandment to follow, he’s really saying, ‘I love you.  I don’t want to lose you.  And I don’t want evil to happen to you.”

You owe it to yourself, and more importantly, you owe it to God, to start thinking these things through.  A person of good character recognizes that life is like a chess game.  In chess, you have to measure every move you make. Good chess players are always thinking several moves ahead.  If I do this, then this might happen, and goodness, he’ll have me checkmated three moves from now.

We need to develop the habit of approaching our moral choices this way. “If I give in to this temptation now, if I commit this sin now, then this is sure to happen later, and if that happens, goodness, what a mess I’ll be in.  No way is the pleasure now worth the pain and shame that’s right around the corner.” 

 The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet. Just say to it, ‘Hold on a moment. Let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.’”

Paul wrote about the necessity of “taking captive our thoughts” (2 Cor.10:5). That’s what Epictetus is saying. We need to install an armed guard over our soul, and allow it to say, “Halt! Who goes there?” to the impulses that approach the gateway of our minds.

Blogger Eric Barker, who led me to this quote says, “Catch yourself when you’re about to act and just postpone. You don’t have to grit your teeth and be a willpower superhero yet. Just pause and think.”

Joseph’s not out of the woods yet. But in thinking it through, he temporarily mutes the lure of the temptation, and in that breathing space, God can enter.