Genesis 42:37-38 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.A little background on the passage here. Of Jacob's 12 sons, Joseph and Benjamin were definitely his favorite. This probably had something to do with the fact that their mom (Rachel) was his favorite wife. But no matter the reason, it caused all kinds of problems (and always will).You remember what happened to Joseph. Jacob's favoritism caused his brothers to resent him, and they "hated him yet the more" for his dreams. So they sold him into slavery, dipped his coat in blood, and told their dad a wild beast had devoured him.
Joseph's rise from an imprisoned slave to the #2 man in Egypt is quite a story, but is not the point of our discussion today. In Genesis 42, there is a devastating famine, and Jacob's sons have to go to Egypt to buy food because there isn't any anywhere else. Joseph recognizes them, interrogates them, accusing them of being spies, and tell them he'll only believe him if they bring their other brother Benjamin.Well, Jacob is still playing favorites, and he'll not hear of it. In the passage above, Reuben is trying to convince him to let Benjamin return to Egypt with them, buy more food, and bring back their other brother Simeon (Joseph required that 1 man stay behind).
But look at the collateral he tries to use – the lives of his 2 sons. Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee. I am not saying Jacob would've ever agreed to this, but it's still an odd offer to make. Especially when we compare it to how Judah reasoned with Jacob in the very next chapter:
Genesis 43:9 I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:
No doubt, Jacob was being ridiculous, and there is no reason Judah should've had to make this plea. But for whatever else was lacking in Judah's life, we can admire him for standing up and taking true responsibility.
And that's a good word – RESPONSIBILITY. According to Webster's 1828, it is defined as "the state of being accountable or answerable." Like most other good things, in our times responsibility is much more often shirked than it is taken.
We don't mind being in charge or making the rules, but we sure don't like being responsible for the outcome. We're eager to complain about what's wrong, but hesitant or totally unwilling to take responsibility for making it right. Certainly all of Jacob's sons wanted to return to Egypt and saw the necessity of doing so. But only Judah stood up and took responsibility for doing what it would take to make it happen.
The closest word we have to responsibility in the NT would have to be stewardship. A quick search of the would reveal that all Christians are accountable, all Christians will answer to God, as stewards of (1) the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) and (2) as stewards of the gifts of His grace (1 Peter 4:10-11). A closer look at both those passages, coupled with an understanding of the rest of the NT clearly reveals that all Christians are RESPONSIBILIY for ministering the gospel to a lost and dying world, and utilizing their spiritual gift to minister to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
So are you a Judah, or a Reuben?