1Now the famine was severe in the land. 2And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little more food.” 3But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; 5but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.'” 6Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” 8Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die – you and we and also our little ones. 9I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”
11Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man – a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. 13Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; 14may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” 15So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.
What do you do when things get desperate? Do you do the thing you swore you would never do? Do you do things that go against your personal code? Do you adjust your value system? Do you barter with the things that matter most to you?
What do you do when you’re at the end of your rope? What choices do you have when everyone is depending on you? Where do you go when it seems like there is nowhere left to turn? Jacob couldn’t have known at this point how sweet this was all going to end up being. He didn’t have a clue. At this point, he is trying to do what he absolutely must to meet his family’s most basic of needs. He’s playing his last hand. If this doesn’t work then game over.
Desperation is an awful feeling. It is a feeling that millions across our country and across the world feel everyday. I’ve heard poverty defined as a lack of options. When the choices are between feeding your family and maintaining the integrity of a personal code, it’s the rare case when the pressing needs of the moment don’t win out. We do the things we think we must do to survive.
I’ve been in that situation, maybe not to the depths of despair that many have experienced, but I have been there. I hope that those experiences give me empathy for those who make decisions that otherwise would be unthinkable to me. I confess the callousness of my heart. May the experience of my own sense of desperation give me a soft and open heart toward those who act out of their own.