The story of Joseph in Genesis provides us with a prime example of a faithful believer who loved God enough to flee sin instead of giving in. Most of the examples in the Old Testament demonstrate the opposite, so Joseph is quite extraordinary!
Joseph was a slave to Potiphar, who put him in charge over all his house. He was treated well and enjoyed an unusually high status—at least until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. What was Joseph’s response?
“But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8–9)
She persisted and tried to seduce him: “she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.” (Genesis 39:12)
Reflecting on this verse, Charles Spurgeon considers the cost we may have to pay when we refuse to yield to sin. Joseph offended Potiphar’s wife, so she accuses him of forcing himself on her, and he is unjustly put into prison for years.
Fleeing sin is costly to all of us. Even if we don’t face consequences as severe as imprisonment, there are plenty of other possibilities. We may lose friends because their company brings us into too much temptation to sin—whether that’s getting drunk, sleeping around, coarse joking, or gossip.
Obedience might mean being honest at work, even if everybody else cuts corners and it costs you a promotion.
It could look like giving up watching Netflix because you want to flee even the smallest temptation towards habitual sins like lust, materialism, or laziness.
Spurgeon had this kind of sin-killing attitude and was fully aware of the costs:
“It is true I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company, but I had better leave my cloak than lose my character; it is not needful that I should be rich, but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin.”1
He had his priorities right, willingly forsaking any earthly benefits for the higher cause of holiness.
You might think this kind of holiness is unrealistic or unappealing. What if you choose the other course? When obedience seems too hard, it’s worth weighing up what it will cost you not to flee sin.
The apostle James warns us what happens when we coddle sin instead of running from it:
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14–15)
Death—eternal separation from God—is the consequence for those who persist in the unbelief of disobedience. A lifetime of indulgence will reveal in the end that we never really knew Jesus.
There are other consequences too, even for those who trust in Jesus. God will discipline those he loves to bring them back to him (Hebrews 12:6). While this ends up for our good, we can save a great deal of pain along the way by refusing to indulge sin.
You probably know from experience as well how yielding to sin kills your joy. It fractures our communion with God and robs us of the blessings of walking in righteousness.
No matter how it appears on the surface, when we compare the costs we see that disobedience is far more costly.
Thankfully, we who trust in Jesus have an unshakable hope when we fail to flee as we ought: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
So here’s a question for you. In whatever circumstances and temptations you face, what will it cost you to flee sin today? Count that cost, and then get busy paying the price. Anything is worth it to follow the Saviour who has already paid our steepest debt:
“…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot…” (1 Peter 1:18–19)
- Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, July 25, morning, available here: https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/2014/07/25