Week 11: Genesis 42-45

Joseph Forgives

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St Matthew in the Word Kiddo Activity Week of 12/6

Bitter or Better?…Joseph Forgives!

Hey kiddos and welcome to Round 2 of “St Matthew in the Word.” This week’s Kiddo Activity is a nice summary of all the weeks we’ve studied Joseph, ending this week with his tremendous forgiveness towards his brothers. Joseph had been through so much hard stuff and suffering that he could have easily become bitter (very hurt, angry or resentful) but instead he showed deep love and forgiveness.

For parents: The following sections below through all these activities are divided into three ways: Do (the task you will have your child do), Ask (questions you can ask them to help them dig deeper), Grow (little tidbits of information for you to read (or them to read) to help us grow. This activity may look longer than others based on first glance but it really will go quickly. You could divide it over a few days if you really want to have some good discussions on times in our lives we’ve grown bitter or learned to grow better.

DO: Kiddos, take the sheet of paper with the four squares and cut them out. With these four squares you can make the word “bitter” or “better”. You will use these throughout the activities.

DO: Eat your big sour patch kid. Although we all love candy, hopefully this sour patch kid was a bit sour/bitter. Can you move the squares around to make the word “Bitter”?

Grow: It would have been easy for Joseph to become bitter. Do you remember what happened to him in the other stories you read? Thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, wrongly imprisoned, and forgotten by the cupbearer he helped for two long years.  Some people become really bitter when horrible things happen to them. But not Joseph…He even seems to become…

DO: Make the word “Better” with the squares.

ASK: Why do some people become bitter when horrible things happen in their lives? How can you tell when someone is bitter? Has there been a time in your life when you’ve become bitter?

DO: Grab your diamond (church budget only allows for false ones so turn on your pretending cap!). 

ASK: Does anyone know how diamonds are made?

GROW: Diamonds aren’t made in a factory but in the earth—they are made because they are put under tremendous pressure. Joseph is a bit like a diamond – in the stories we read, he was put under enormous pressure at times and it still seems to bring the best out of him.

ASK: Have their been times in your life that you were put under a lot of pressure and it brought the best out of you? A piano recital? A big baseball game? A test at school? Maybe something went wrong (like you missed the winning shot) but it still brought the best out of you? 

DO: Grab the pearl necklace (again fake pearls…church budget…)

ASK: Does anyone know how pearls are made?

GROW: Real pearls are formed in oysters. If a grain of sand gets into the oyster, the oyster doesn’t like it, and forms a hard shiny layer around the thing that’s causing it discomfort and pain. Over the years, the pearl gets bigger and bigger. Joseph is a bit like the pearl too. People hurt him again and again and again like his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, etc. Yet each time it’s like Joseph manages to put a shiny layer around the pain and turns the situation into a pearl with God’s help. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard for Joseph but in Genesis 50:20 he states, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

ASK: Why do you think Joseph didn’t seem to get bitter (make that word with your squares) and instead became better (make that word with your squares)?  How did he change into a diamond and a pearl and not a revengeful king who some would argue had every right to kill his brothers?

GROW: In his life, Joseph discovered four keys that helped him to not become bitter, but instead touched his brothers’ hearts. These four keys and Joseph’s life and actions are a great example for us today on forgiveness and reconciliation (big word for making relationships or friendships that might have been bad or hurtful better and happier again). 

Grow Throughout the Week:

Feel free to use the four keys (generous, don’t take revenge, show love, see God) and talk and grow as a family this week. This second sheet is in your packet and feel free to tackle one of these topics throughout your week. Parents, I’ve found it to be very helpful for me (and just maybe a bit convicting too!). 

Mrs. Wieneke

Youth Activity

Listen to the song and let the words wash over you and penetrate your inmost thoughts. What is God trying to say to you through this song? Pray for Him to lead and guide you to do the impossible, forgiveness.


Written by people you worship with at St Matthew.


Bitter or Better

By Lori Wieneke

Bitter or better?

Joseph endured betrayal, suffering, and loneliness. He was thrown into a pit, sold as a slave by his family, slandered and wrongly imprisoned, and forgotten by the cupbearer he helped for two long years. One could make a pretty solid argument that he had every right to seek revenge on his brothers.

British author Simon R. Green states, “Revenge is simply justice with teeth” and, in Joseph’s case, retribution seems more than justified. He could have become bitter through the years and filled with rage, but his choice of deep love and forgiveness is so powerful, so Christ-like.

Bitter or better?

Forgiveness is not easy. Although Genesis 50:20 is one of the most quoted Bible passages from Joseph’s story, “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” this rosy “God has a perfect plan through suffering” often leads one to forget that Joseph struggled with many conflicting, intense emotions.

Five times Genesis tells about Joseph weeping as he dealt with his brothers (42:24, 45:14-15, 50:17). Genesis 45:2 states, “He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him,” leaving his brothers with terror and guilt. Though the moment ends with embraces and kissing, years later his brothers are still afraid of possible revenge.

Bitter or better?

I’ve often looked at Joseph’s story with awe. My fiery personality and competitive spirit lend themselves to root for justice (I prefer that word over revenge because it leaves me feeling more “justified” in retaliations) that seems deserved. Who doesn’t love the ending of the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo when Jim Caviezel’s character, Edmond Dantes, finally destroys his “friend” after years of torment and destruction? That’s an ending I can get behind. Joseph’s forgiveness? It almost seems too good to be true. Again, so Christ-like.

Bitter or better?

In studying the story of Joseph, we must never lose sight of the beautiful gospel story, the sacrifice of our amazing Savior, which leads to the forgiveness and grace we are shown every single day. Daniel 9:9 reminds us: “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”

Instead of me relating to Joseph and the times people have wronged me, I forget I am the brothers from our Bible story. We all are. The more we reflect on the forgiveness of our sins, the cancellation of our debt, the more readily we’ll be able to forgive others for their sins against us. C. S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Bitter or better?

These past months have been very difficult. A pandemic, a polarizing election, and division in our country over a number of different issues have led to much hurt, separation, and pain. Our wounds are real. Forgiveness is tough, especially when we’ve been hurt deeply by those we love deeply. Writing this devotion and studying these passages from Scripture, has personally challenged me to pray to God to soften my heart in many areas that have grown dark. To love others, to forgive “just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven me” (Ephesians 4:32). To have eyes and see others from Christ’s perspective as His creations, and a heart to even want to forgive.  Hopefully in the months ahead, as “followers of Jesus, wherever we are,” we can look for better instead of bitter.

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