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We Sin by Tolerating Sin

Published April 24, 2022

Michael V Wilson
By Michael V. Wilson

The story of Achan’s sin in Joshua chapter 7 has much to teach us today about the tragedy of sin and the cost of tolerating it, but first, a brief recap.

Before attacking Jericho (and the walls came tumbling down!) God warned Joshua that everyone and everything in Jericho had to be destroyed, that no one was to take for himself the “accursed things”. But Achan, of the tribe of Judah, disobeyed, swiped some stuff from Jericho, then buried his loot in the ground under his tent.

(Bad boys, bad boys! Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?)

Joshua sent 3,000 men to attack the small city of Ai where they promptly got their butts kicked. Thirty six of them died and they ran away with their tails between their legs. Joshua and the elders prayed and God informed them their defeat came about because someone in Israel had sinned by disobeying Him. Achan was found out through God’s system of elimination, he confessed, the stolen loot was located, he was stoned, and all his stuff, legitimate and otherwise, was burned along with his body.

Achan’s Cost

Achan paid a steep price for his disobedience. Not only was he stoned to death, a particularly brutal form of capital punishment, but all his belongings – his tents, his flocks, his possessions – were all burned along with him, thus leaving his wife and children destitute and penniless. He lost his life and his family was impoverished because of his sin.

We can only imagine the social ostracism his family experienced afterwards. Who’d want to be seen with the wife and children of someone whose sin caused the death of 36 Israelites and led to Israel’s first, and very public, defeat? Who’d want to hang out with a family whose husband and father made God so angry He abandoned Israel in only their second battle in the Promised Land?

But here’s the thing, his family tolerated his sin. In order for him to hide his loot in the ground under his tent, they had to – at the very least – have suspected he was up to some kind of funny business.

“Hey! Dad’s digging a hole under the tent. I wonder what for?” “Don’t ask. Let’s eat!”

More likely, given the way families operate, they knew exactly what he was doing and kept quiet because they hoped to get some for themselves when the time came. So Achan’s sin cost him his life and his family’s acceptance and toleration of his sin cost them their livelihood.

They didn’t steal anything from Jericho, they may not the touched the things Achan stole but they tolerated his stealing and disobedience of God.

They probably rationalized it by saying something along the lines of, “Hey, it’s not my sin. I’m not the one doing it.”

Too bad.

In David Guzik’s commentary on Joshua 7, he wrote, “. . . the acceptance and toleration of the sin is worse than the sin itself, so it must be dealt with strictly.”

Achan’s family got exactly what they deserved for accepting and tolerating his sin. They were lucky to get off so lightly, they could have been stoned along with him.

Israel’s Cost

In the battle of Jericho, a heavily fortified city full of men-at-arms, not a single Israelite died. Everyone in Jericho was slaughtered at God’s command but not one of God’s people died during the battle.

Praise the Lord!

But . . . Joshua didn’t seek God’s counsel after the battle to make sure there weren’t any rascals in the army who might have disobeyed God and stolen something from Jericho. We’re not told exactly how many men marched against Jericho, but given the numbering of the Children of Israel in earlier chapters, we can be sure it was many, many thousands.

What man in his right mind thinks an army that size doesn’t have at least one know-it-all in the ranks? One scoundrel? One greedy Gus?


Oh, please.

As soon as the battle was over Joshua should have gotten on his face before the Lord to inquire if anyone had taken anything from Jericho. But he didn’t. Furthermore, if Joshua inquired of God before launching the attack on Ai, it’s not recorded in the Bible. Instead, he sent some spies, used his human understanding, decided Ai was low-hanging fruit, and ‘we can handle this one by ourselves with a fraction of the force we used against Jericho’.

Instead, they lost 36 men and got their butts royally kicked.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [1 Corinthians 5:6]

It was Achan’s sin but their acceptance and toleration of his sin – by refusing to inquire if there was any sin in the ranks – led to the death of 36 men, widowing their wives and leaving their families without their father. It led to a humiliating defeat by a small town and put fear into the hearts of all the Israelites because God had abandoned them.

They had to stone the sinner who brought this punishment upon them and burn everything he owned in order to seal the breach between them and God.

Our Lesson From It

The tragedy of the modern church is our acceptance and toleration of sin in America. The list of sins we tolerate and turn a blind eye to are legion:

The modern church accepts and tolerates these sins each and every day, and this is only a sampling of the sins we accept and tolerate. Anyone could increase the list ad infinitum.

But these aren’t my sins! We voted against them! There’s nothing we can do.



“For with God nothing will be impossible.” [Luke 1:37]

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [Matthew 19:26]

Anything is possible, if and only if, you truly believe in Almighty God and are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

If you don’t believe, then you’re right, there’s nothing you can do about it. So go ahead, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

On the other hand, if you truly believe in God, if you’re really saved, truly saved by the blood of Christ, then why are you accepting and tolerating sins God has unequivocally condemned? Why aren’t you on your face before the Almighty asking His help to overcome and destroy the sins of America before America is destroyed by those sins?

Nothing is impossible with God. Get on your face and pray. Pray and be led by His spirit. Step out in godly faith against the enemies of God and watch His blessing fill this land to overflowing.

But beware, along with every blessing comes a curse.

Israel, God’s own Chosen People paid a horrible price for disobeying Him, in Joshua and many other places in the Bible as well. Do you really think that America, who is not His Chosen People, will fare any better? We sin by tolerating sin and God will not allow sin to go unpunished.

If you think we can escape punishment because we’re New Testament believers, think again. Recall what happened to Ananias and his wife Sapphira (Acts 5) who lied to God. They fell down dead on the spot when their lie was revealed and the Bible says fear seized the church.

When you realize that throughout the Bible, God has punished entire nations for their national sins, the example of Ananias and Sapphira should fill you with godly fear for the future of America. Our national sins are stinking to high heaven and God won’t let it go on forever.

Remember, if you will not live by Grace, you will die by the Law.

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