If you grew up attending Sunday School, there’s no question that you heard the story of Joseph and his “coat of many colors.” It went something like this: “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph–a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:3-4, NLT).
On the surface it appears as though Joseph got a new coat because he was the father’s favorite, and his brothers were jealous because they didn’t get a special coat. But there’s a little more to it than a father giving his son some fancy new clothes. In ancient culture, the coat symbolized three things.
First, the coat symbolized Joseph’s position as the heir of the family. Though Joseph was not Jacob’s oldest son, he was the oldest son of his favorite wife. As the heir, he would receive a double cut of Jacob’s fortune (2/13ths vs. 1/13th).
Second, the coat symbolized power. The heir was not required to work and was in authority over the rest of the siblings. Remember, Joseph was only 17 years old when he entered management!
Finally, the coat represented priority. The Bible is not bashful about stating Jacob’s preference to Joseph over the other sons. Which should not surprise anyone. After all, Jacob had been a favorite.
I don’t think Joseph sinned by wearing the coat so early. He was brash, aggressive and assertive. Naive? Maybe. Sinful? Probably not.
How do you conduct yourself toward those who have positional authority in your life? Maybe the new guy or the younger person received the nod and was promoted over you at work. Is there jealousy in your heart over any relationships? On the flip side, how do you display your positional authority over others? Are you sporting a “coat of many colors?” Do you flaunt it? Or are you like Jesus–the consummate servant leader?
It’s not just a coat. Be careful how you wear yours.