Playing God

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?
- Genesis 50:19
Am I in the place of God? If I was, you’d have every reason to be afraid. I get grumpy when I’m hungry. I can hold a grudge. I sometimes fall asleep on the couch while watching TV. I’d make a horrible god. So would you.
Today’s passage picks up a thread from an earlier story in Genesis. In Genesis 3 we read about a woman in a garden eating forbidden fruit out of a desire to be like God. Not necessarily to take his place, but to join him as an equal. That movement – every time it happens – wrecks the world.
We all have times in our lives when we slip through the garden and grab for forbidden fruit and play God. We do this with our children and our finances and our health and our work. We do this even though it strains our relationships and exhausts us. We shake our heads afterward and say “What was I thinking?”. And yet we do it again.
Joseph’s refusal to take God’s place is the fruit of a lifetime of walking with God. Joseph the 17-year-old probably wouldn’t have hesitated to jump up in God’s judgement seat and render a verdict. Joseph the 30-year-old, fresh off his victory in Pharaoh’s palace, might have felt confident to execute judgement on his brothers. But Joseph, after a lifetime of learning that everything goes better when God gets to be God, lives within his limits. He refuses to punish his brothers.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the punchline to Joseph’s whole narrative. But today we wanted to pause and reflect on the ways we wander into the place of God or find ourselves trying to take God’s place.
Can you identify a place in your life where you’re doing something that would be better left to God? Look for areas where you’re grasping for control, struggling with boundaries, or feeling exhausted. These might signal a secret playing God challenge in your heart. If you discover something, turn that over to God, ask for his forgiveness, and receive the blessing of rest under God’s comfort and protection.

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