That’s the word that comes to mind in Numbers 18. In fact, the word occurs more in Numbers than any other book of the Bible. Everyone in Israel is held responsible. They are responsible to God and one another for the way they act. Each person is responsible for the way others act. And the community is responsible for enforcing standards of conduct.
I heard of a private boarding school recently that adheres to a strict standard of responsibility. Students are paired by the administration – two to a dorm room. Unless one leaves school, that pairing lasts for the whole time they are in school. Whatever differences or disagreements they have, they must work them out. They are responsible to one another and for one another. If one makes a bad grade, they both make a bad grade. If one gets in trouble, the other gets in trouble. If one succeeds, they both succeed. This standard produces adults who learn to work with others, who learn to work as a team, and who learn to value others as they value themselves.
The Priests of Israel were responsible for the Tabernacle, it’s worship ordinances, and sacrifices. They were responsible for making sure no unauthorized person came into those precincts. They were responsible that Israel behave correctly, and failure reflected on them – with all its attendant punishments.
In applying this text, we must take care not to confine the application to the responsibility of church leaders. We are, as Christians, all called to be priests. We are responsible for one another. We are responsible to one another. And most of all, God holds us accountable for one another. The responsibility make us accountable to God and responsibility is a characteristic of the Christian faith.