The Ripple Effects of Sin

In Joshua 7, the story of Achan’s sin is recorded and is one that can be challenging to understand the consequences, but has immense application for our lives. Earlier in Joshua 6:18, Joshua commanded the Israelites not to take any of the devoted things from Jericho, for it will cause the entire camp of Israel calamity. Unfortunately, Achan did not heed the message from Joshua. Achan kept for himself some of the treasures from the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 7:1) and it ultimately affected all of Israel at the battle of Ai (Joshua 7:2-9), due also to a neglect in consulting with the Lord prior to battle.

Thus, we see the sin of one man having a ripple effect throughout his community. The Israelites stood guilty before God because of the sin of Achan, who took from the devoted things at Jericho. The covenant requirement of community responsibility explains why all Israel suffered as a result of Achan’s sin. Since they were one family in God’s mind, the whole group suffered for one man’s sin.

In Joshua 7:7, we see Joshua pleading for understanding on why God would bring them such distress upon which God quickly chastises Joshua in Joshua 7:10-15 that it is not He is to blame but the sin of one from the camp of Israel.

Achan and his family were ultimately stoned, and his possessions were burned (Joshua 7:24–25). Because the entire community was responsible for covenant holiness, all of Israel participated in destroying what pertained to the sin. The crime was likely not possible without the knowledge of the family; therefore they share the penalty since earlier law forbade children being put to death because of their father (Deuteronomy 24:16). The drastic punishment communicates a powerful lesson to the nation at this early, critical period of their history as well as for us today.

So what can we learn from this?

When we commit sin, we often rationalize our behavior by thinking, “Nobody else was hurt”, when in reality that is not true. Sin, crime, and immorality all negatively affect the family, community, and nation. The damage of hidden sin can have lasting impact and ultimately leads to a loss of fellowship with God (Jeremiah 16:17-18; James 1:14-15). How many relationships are destroyed because of betrayal in one form or another that was once hidden but has been uncovered?

Our obedience to God should never be considered negotiable, nor should we try to use past obedience to cover for current disobedience. Because of God’s holiness, He cannot tolerate sin of any kind.

Perhaps Achan thought the stolen items would be a blessing for his family down the road—that they would enjoy a life of prosperity. Are we guilty of something similar? Do we have any sinful behaviors we commit thinking (justifying) that we are only doing this because it will help ourselves or our family, and that someday later on after we have reaped the rewards of this sin, we can just repent? The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

When we have desires outside of God’s will for us, we are treading on very dangerous ground. Sin, regardless of its depth, causes a separation and must be reconciled immediately. That reconciliation is found only in Jesus Christ. Seek earnest forgiveness and He will bring you back into His fold (1 John 1:9). You are never too far gone to come home.