Session 31

Finding the balance between responsibility and reward

From Genesis: A 7-Week Devotional


Genesis 38

Genesis is hardly a dull book. Filled with murder, incest, polygamy, fraud, infighting, and genocide, it reads more like Mario Puzo than what you might expect from divine revelation.

One of the more fascinating stories is that of Tamar in Genesis 38. Tamar was chosen to be the wife of Judah’s son Er. Er was so wicked that God put him to death. The custom at that time was for the brother to marry the widow, so their first son would continue the family line of the dead brother. Onan, Judah’s next oldest son, was told to perform this duty so he married Tamar. However, Onan didn’t want to raise a son that wouldn’t be his. Rather than choosing to not marry Tamar, he takes advantage of the situation and enjoys sex with her, yet avoids getting her pregnant. Onan was defrauding Tamar from her right to raise a family and participate in Judah's inheritance. He was enjoying the perks and avoiding the responsibility that comes with them. So, God killed him.

We are called to live a holy life, not a boring life.

Times have changed, and while we don’t see God striking people dead anymore, He despises attitudes like Onan’s as much today as He did back then. God created pleasure and responsibility. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul tells the church that God still considers it fraud to try to enjoy one without the other. Onan was given a wife. We’ve been given freedom in Christ. Onan was called to honor his brother’s lineage. We are called to live a holy life. (Not a boring life, but a holy life.) To reject the responsibility that comes with this great reward is to reject the God who gave it to us in the first place.

Take a good look at your life. How is the balance between responsibility and reward? Ask God to show you where you’re shying away from one or the other, and start working toward repentance and change.


  • Is there an area of your life in which you are trying to experience the reward without the responsibility?
  • What is one step you can take today to take responsibility in that area?

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