Private Sins (Joshua 7:1)

But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.

Joshua 7:1

I find the way that this is phrased interesting. The verse begins with the statement that the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully, but proceeds to tell us that Achan … took some of the things under the ban. Having read this story a few times, I know how this ends for Achan. But my thought this morning is how this affects Israel.

See, Joshua catches flak — and rightly — for not praying before attacking the city of Ai. But the defeat and thirty-six deaths are not laid at Joshua’s feet by the scriptures. The fault for the deaths and defeat are laid at Achan’s feet because of his transgression.

This reminds me that there is no such thing as a private sin or a personal sin. If I lie then the other person is proceeding on falsehood and may end up offending another without knowing why. My lies spread discord through every person I lie to. I’m sure that lying seems to be — on its face — a public sin, but what about something that seems private like pornography? If I engage in the sin of pornography, it affects my wife whether I realize it or not. It sets expectations that no real person will ever live up to and changes my perceptions of and satisfaction with my marriage. It creates frustration with things not being as they are in that scripted and fantasized world and that frustration can spill over onto my daughter, my friends, my coworkers … anyone. Frustration is indiscriminate and if I’m not aware of why I’m frustrated, I won’t do anything to fix the situation. Worse, I might not even realize that I’m frustrated and will go about causing hurt and offense until I recognize that I’m frustrated and set things right.

Achan’s sin would cost him not only his life, but the lives of his family. There are some who would look at this and decide that the punishment is unjust, but that determination overlooks something important: Achan’s family knew he had the things he wasn’t supposed to have. These folks are living in tents and packing and unpacking every time they move. Achan’s wife saw the things he stole. His sons very likely saw him take those things from the battlefield. His daughters probably wondered where their dad got the new outfits. No one in Achan’s family said anything about those things. No one called him on his sin. So Achan and his entire family were executed. So, too, my sins, if left unaddressed, will damage; possibly destroy my family.

The NT writers will tell me to examine myself; to look at my life and ferret out the sins that hide in dark corners like roaches. To do that, I must continually seek more and more light to shine into those corners by seeking the Light of the World; the Father of Lights more and more. My sin — no matter how secret I may think it and no matter how contained its fallout may seem to me — affects everyone around me in some way. I need to regularly examine myself; repent of any sins I’ve tried to conceal; shine light into the corners where I would try to hide things.

There are no private sins.

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