The 50/20 Principle Reexamined

November 20, 2003 by  
Filed under News

At the final resolution of the Biblical story of Joseph, Genesis 50:20 states “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” This statement of God’s faithfulness to complete a vision He had given, is called the 50/20 principle.

Recently, I came by an internet article on the 50/20 principle. In its development, the author brought a series of exclusive facts from the life of Joseph, showing the application of the 50/20 principle in an almost-vendetta-like context. The principle was then used in an ecclesial context where it was pointed out to the reader that it will work regardless of the circumstances and with very little concern of context and intent. Such conclusion was unacceptable regardless of if it was based on a personal experience or a limited understanding of the Spirit of the Bible.

These thoughts bid me to return again to the Genesis text and to reexamine the 50/20 principle in light of the present reading. Fortunately, the 50/20 principle is much more than a vendetta against people in the church that has done us wrong. It is a principle for reconciliation and unity within the family of God. Looking closely into the Biblical text one must notice that the 50/20 principle exists only in a particular context clearly described by the author of Genesis. This context consists of two other principle, which I will call the 50/19 and 50/21 principles. The following five conclusions then could be made by reading Genesis 50:19-21 and considering the context of the 50/20 principle:

1. Corporative Application: The 50/20 principle is not about one person alone. In other words, it was not God’s personal vendetta on Joseph’s behalf to bring Jacob’s sons before him in humility. God had a much higher plan. He intended to preserve the Hebrew nation in Egypt in the seasons of famine until the time of the Exodus. For this very reason Joseph had to suffer and what his brothers did was an undividable part from the plan God had for his life. Similarly, Christ suffered on our behalf and His suffering and crucifixion was the very plan of God for our redemption. Yes, suffering is bad, but it is redemptive and God uses it to bring us closer to him. Once we recognize this Biblical truth, we will never have to vindictively ask God to punish the ones who do wrong against us.

2. Context Application: The 50/20 principle cannot exist without the 50/19 and the 50/21 principles regardless of the interpretation which is applied to the text. The 50/20 principle was simple meant to exist that way – together with 50/19 and 50/21 and never separate from them.

3. Pre-text Application: The pre-text application is included in the 50/19 principle (Genesis 50:19). The 50/19 principle is an “against-control” principle. It requires that we let go and let God. The 50/20 principle can be applied only after the 50/19 principle has been put in action. In other words, we cannot attempt to control the situation and expect God to protect us. He will only do so, after we admit that it is not our battle and it is not in our power alone to bring His plan for our lives to reality.

4. Unity Application: The 50/20 principle is about forgiveness – not vengeance. God applies it in our lives only when we are ready to forgive and reconcile with others. Holding grudges and desiring or attempting personal vengeance only disables the 50/20 principle.

5. Post-text Application: The post-text application is included in the 50/21 principle (Genesis 50:21). It clearly shows that the 50/20 principle is about keeping forgiveness between the people thus bringing continuous (not momentous) unity in the community.

In conclusion, the 50/20 principle has nothing to do with the ego and everything to do with the ego-sacrifice. It is not that through this principle God brings revenge for our pain and suffering, but He uses them to bring His corporative plan for the whole ecclesial community into reality. Once having realized that, we will look at the wrong doing of others and at our personal suffering in a different way. And perhaps, we will look at the suffering of others cause by us in a different way as well …