Why doesn’t somebody bring back The Smothers Brothers? They were really funny, and it was humor that worked on several levels. I was just a kid when they were really popular, but I got the jokes. Now as an adult I can appreciate how deep their humor went and why they were frequently in trouble with the censors and the network. They were willing to take risks and push the envelope.
Probably their most famous ongoing bit was Tom accusing Dick of being the favorite. Dick always denied it, but Tom would not let go. They were supposedly folk singers and honestly they weren’t bad singers at all, but somehow in the middle of their song they would degenerate into a fight with Dick saying a lot of mean things about his brother, and Tom never having an intelligent or sometimes even a rational response. Occasionally all he could say was “Well, Mom always liked you best.”
Anyone who has a brother or a sister understands this argument. We’ve all had this argument with our brothers and sisters. Who did our parents favor? Who had more rules to follow? Who got punished more or punished unfairly? Who had it easier?
The truth is that most parents don’t really favor one child over the other. It just feels that way to the child. Oh sure it does happen. And today’s reading about that very thing. Genesis 37: 3-28 is the classic story: Joseph and his coat. It’s hard to tell from the story if Joseph realized how much his father Jacob really did favor him or how poorly this sat with his brothers. Joseph does seem to Lord it over them some.
In this particular story it gets so bad that the brothers just can’t take any more and they decide to get rid of their problem once and for all by killing their brother. Yes, killing their brother. The only thing that saved Joseph from this untimely death was a band of hairy Ishmaelites who happen by and end up purchasing Joseph from his brothers. They sold him into slavery. Well, why kill him if they could make a buck or two off the deal?
I was about to say that nothing good comes from this kind of jealousy, but actually in this story it does all work out for the best eventually. *SPOILER ALERT* Joseph and his brothers eventually reconcile, but not until a lot of water passes under the bridge.
So who is at fault here? Jacob for favoring one of his children over the others? Joseph for not being more humble or realizing how hard this was on his brothers? The brothers who are not just mean but vicious? There seems to be enough guilt for everyone here.
I’ve noticed that whenever people in the Bible start comparing themselves to others it just doesn’t help. I’m better, I’m worse, who cares? It’s really the same issue as who is the greatest and who will sit on the right and left hand in the kingdom?
Just be you. There doesn’t have to be a better or a best.
There is a song written by Jerry Herman from the musical version of “La Cage Aux Folles” called “I Am What I Am”. It says it all.
I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It’s my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in.
Life’s not worth a damn,
‘Til you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am.”
I am what I am,
I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity.
I bang my own drum,
Some think it’s noise, I think it’s pretty.
And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle,
Why not try to see things from a diff’rent angle?
Your life is a sham ’til you can shout out loud
I am what I am!
I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses.
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces.
There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit;
One life, so it’s time to open up your closet.
Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say,
“Hey world, I am what I am!”