WEEK 2: The Good Thing vs. the God-Thing


“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:19-20, NIV)

In the Christmas story, much of the focus is on Mary – Joseph seems to be almost a ‘background character’. Yet these verses above taught me something profound about motivations and actions.

In the New Living Translation, it says that “Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” The English Standard version describes him as “a just man and unwilling to put her to shame”. Joseph had every right, according to the law, to break the engagement with Mary, but the Bible specifically mentions that he did not want to disgrace her and therefore planned to do things quietly. He felt compassion and mercy, even though he must have been confused and hurting.

He was a GOOD man.

Yet even his good, just and best intentions were not what God wanted. God had a different plan for Joseph entirely, which He revealed through the angel and Joseph obeyed.

I often think about the difference between believers and non-believers. There are many ‘good’ people out there who don’t believe in Jesus, but who show mercy and compassion in their daily lives. For many people, these character traits seem to be part of their DNA. But one of the things that sets God’s people apart is obedience to His leading that goes beyond human goodness.

This principle is something I try to use as a ‘filter’ when considering my actions – if I am planning to do something with a good motivation, is there something different or better that God wants me to do and that I haven’t considered? Does He have a different way of doing things that go way beyond my ‘good’ intentions?

As with Joseph, doing the ‘God-thing’ rather than the ‘good thing’ may not make sense at the time and it may be far more difficult. But that is what God calls us to: trusting Him to see beyond what we can, and following His lead rather than our own inclinations.