Guardrails (Genesis 38-40)

And though [Potiphar’s wife] spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. (Genesis 39:10)

Have you ever been driving on a road and seen a guardrail?  You can look at it in two ways: it’s a restriction or it’s a life-saving device.  The purpose of the guardrail is to protect cars from driving off the road and into sudden danger – in doing so it has to restrict where drivers are allowed to drive.  But guardrails don’t just exist to protect us on roads – they can also exist to protect us in life.

There’s a lot that can be learned through Joseph’s story, and one of the biggest lessons is how to deal with temptation.  Joseph was an attractive young man who had hopes of being in some kind of leadership position (based on the dreams he shared with his father and brothers).  He was a slave in Potiphar’s house, and he faced one of the biggest temptations known to anyone who desires power: sex.

Potiphar’s wife didn’t approach Joseph once or twice – she literally pestered him day after day after day.  Once Joseph understood that this annoying temptation wasn’t going to go away, he took steps to protect himself: he refused to even be with her.  That guardrail may seem simple enough, but it was the key to Joseph’s refusal to give in to temptation.

Guardrails aren’t put at the bottom of a cliff after your car has already driven off – they’re put at the top, several feet away from the edge, so you don’t get too close.

One of the reasons we aren’t good at battling temptation is because we don’t set up guardrails to keep us from getting too close to the edge of the cliff.  Joseph’s guardrail was that he wouldn’t be in Mrs. Potiphar’s presence alone.  I think Joseph knew that he was capable of any kind of sin, so he set up that guardrail for himself.

So much of battling sin is choosing where to set your boundaries.  If your boundaries aren’t far enough from the edge, the likelihood of falling off increases tremendously.  Are you battling temptation in your life?  Maybe it’s time to set up some guardrails.  Put a filter on your computer.  Cancel the cable TV package.  Don’t go out to eat alone with someone of the opposite sex if you’re married.  Cut up the credit cards.  Do what you need to do to set boundaries, and enlist the help of others.  With God’s grace, you, like Joseph, will overcome temptation.

Father, help me to realize that my choices often facilitate the temptations that I face.  Help me to wisely set up guardrails so that I won’t be tempted to sin.  Take my efforts, and give me your strength so that I may live in constant victory over my temptations.


About Seth

Seth is a pastor, author, and speaker who lives in Batesville, Indiana. He is married to Kari, and they have two daughters, Madelyn and Noelle.


  1. Kelly Hanson says:

    Good words and very timely for me! It was no accident that I read this today as it fits beautifully with a study I’m doing on sinful eating habits. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I hope you’re doing well.

    • Hey, Kelly! Thanks for your kind words; I really appreciate it! We’re doing pretty good – we were just saying how we need to schedule a time this fall for you guys to come have grilled pizza. I’ll talk to Kari and have her work on a date with you.

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