Joshua 7: 21
“Trap #3: I Took”
“There is a tiny fish called the remora, which is supposed to have the power to stop a large ship simply by attaching itself to the keel. In a similar manner a person advancing on the spiritual way is sometimes hindered by a small temptation.”
John of Carpathos
Have I ever “taken” something or someone from another and found out that there was no joy or contentment in “taking” what was not mine?
“Temptation commonly comes through that for which we are naturally fitted.”
Bruce Foss Westcott
“A man does not steal from one victim only, but from everyone who comes near to the theft.”
Margaret Lee Rumbeck
Recently, I was reading about a study done which monitored people’s purchasing habits relating to food. This particular study focused on what people buy and when they buy it. What the researchers wanted to find out specifically, was how an individual’s eating affected the purchases they made when they went to the grocery store. What they learned was that if you go to get groceries when you have just eaten, you don’t buy as much food as if you go and buy your groceries when you are hungry. What the team of researchers deduced was that our “desires” and “longings” affect our actions. Maybe, there didn’t need to be a research study to prove this idea, because I am certain you and I could have told the individuals running this study that what we like or want is often the force that controls our behavior.
I know if I’m hungry and I’m in a grocery store, not only do I want the foods I like, sometimes I’m even tempted by food which looks alluring but that I may never have eaten before. Before you know it, I’m tempted to purchase what I don’t need just because it is pleasing.
Now let’s take this practical yet simple theory and apply it directly to our text today and the story we are studying. Mr. Achan was a soldier of Israel on a mission for God – the destruction of Jericho at God’s command. Make no mistake; Achan wasn’t some repeat criminal, living a life of crime. There’s not any mention in the Bible Achan was an evil man. Nor is there any reference to the fact he had a previous problem with thievery. He was God’s child. In fact, when confronted with his sin, without hesitation he admitted to “sinning against God.” From all outward appearances, Achan appeared to be an upstanding person.
But somewhere along the way, a tiny seed was planted in Achan’s heart. He may have thought it was a “little thing” to desire something nice. Having wandered around the Sinai desert as a youngster and young teen, and now having a chance to live in the “Promised Land, Achan may have had really good motives for wanting something better for himself and his family. When he saw some gold and silver, he may have said, “This will help me take care of my wife and children.”
Author Frances B. Cobbe made a statement that really got me to thinking; “Once (we) admit (to) the idea that it is good to lie for religion’s sake, the lie may grow to any dimensions. A little lie may serve a man (or woman), but it is hard to calculate how big (a lie) may be when wanted to serve God.”
The point made is that if we believe what we are doing is for a “good purpose,” if we begin to cut-corners and do what God has clearly forbidden, or in the case of Achan, if we take what God says is accursed and call it our own, no matter how pure we believe our motives to be, no matter what “good” reason we have for behaving in a certain manner, wrong is still wrong. What God calls accursed is still forbidden because it is doomed for destruction.
God’s soldier, Achan, a member of God’s army of Israel, doing God’s work, set his eyes on things – possessions. At a certain moment his focus became distorted by what he desired rather than by what God wanted him to do.
Instead of keeping his eye focused on God’s command and his heart single-minded to do God’s work, Achan became distracted by what he saw. The longer he looked at the garment and money, the more his longing increased. As Eberhard Arnold correctly observed: “If your heart is not clear and undivided – ‘single,’ as Jesus put it – then it will be weak and flabby, and indolent, incapable of accepting God’s will. God’s will, of making important decisions, and of taking strong action. That is why Jesus attached the greatest significance to singleness of heart.”
When Achan looked at the beautiful garment and the gold and silver, possessions he liked, his heart lingered too long and his desire for more over-rode his desire to do God’s work. No longer a soldier for his King, he became a soldier for himself. Sadly, this is what happens to every one of us – even to God’s children who are on God’s mission. Achan went into Jericho with no criminal record and yet because he let himself shift his focus to the accursed, he left Jericho a thief. He saw, he coveted and he took.
It might be easy for us to look at Achan and say, “How foolish. He tossed it over for a piece of clothing and a little money.” Yet, I am certain, when Achan entered Jericho, he never intended to steal. But, by harboring the seed of covetousness, he stooped to an act, which at any other time, he may have thought was unthinkable. Believe me, I can relate, for at times in my own life, like Achan, calling myself God’s child and trying to do and be all God wants me to be, I have found that even losing focus for a moment can let my eyes and desires begin to wander to areas where God has said, “Dorothy, for your life and for what I have for you to do, this is an accursed thing. Stay away from it. I have “hedged” you away from this.”
I know my prayer today is that unlike Achan my focus will be firmly planted on God’s will, not my own wants.
“Temptations, when we first meet them, are as the lion that roared upon Samson, but if we overcome them, the next time we see them we shall find a nest of honey within them.”
“Almighty God who hast sent the Spirit of truth unto us to guide us into all truth: so rule our lives by thy power that we may be truthful in thought and word and deed. May no fear or hope ever make us false in act or speech; cast out from us whatsoever loveth or maketh a lie, and bring us all into the perfect freedom of thy truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Brooke Foss Westcott