“The gospel in a gangster movie”: meditation on Genesis 45:16-20

“Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” Genesis 45:20

Last week I watched Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman. I think I now understand the appeal of gangster movies: because I want to know the favor of someone who has the power and resources to get things done for me—who would enjoy doing so. And if I had such a person in my life, I would gladly give him love and loyalty in return. (Of course, I might also live in fear of crossing him, because mobsters in movies, if not real life, are capricious, to say the least!)

Not to compare the Pharaoh to a mob boss, but something like this is happening in today’s scripture. Jacob and his sons have found the favor of a seemingly all-powerful, eminently resourceful benefactor. And they’ve done so not on their own account, but on account of their relationship with Joseph.

I’m jealous!

But not so fast. If we’re in Christ, aren’t we in a similar position—only infinitely more so? As Paul writes, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

These words are astonishing: Do all circumstances, all events, all people, and all things—through God’s sovereign hand—serve me and my interests? And not just me, of course, but everyone who is in Christ? How is this possible?

Yet, how could it be any other way? “We are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” I’m reminded of a quote, which I can’t find at the moment (I think it’s Robert Farrar Capon), which reads something like this: “We are so bound up with Jesus that if the Father wants his Son, he gets us, too.”

As with Jacob’s family, we enjoy God’s inexhaustible favor not on our own account, but on account of Jesus and his relationship to his Father. In other words, because we’re with Jesus, the Father is pleased to give us the “best of the land” and the “fat of the land”—for which he’ll spend our lifetimes preparing us.

To say, as I want to say, “But I’m not worth this,” is to miss the point: I’m not worth it, but God’s Son Jesus is.

2 thoughts on ““The gospel in a gangster movie”: meditation on Genesis 45:16-20”

  1. Interesting movie. But difficult to endure the language. Surely people don’t talk like that all the time?

    1. Maybe mobsters do? It’s rough, that’s for sure. But there is grace at the end—if we can accept that Christ can redeem even (former) cold-blooded killers.

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