The failings of the nation of Israel were written as a warning for us that we should not set our hearts on evil things as they did (1Cor.10:6,11). The story of Achan and the destruction he brought on himself and his family is a stark reminder that God is serious about sin even though he is patient and long suffering.
The story is recorded in the book of Joshua 7:1-26. The battle for the city of Jericho was an unusual one. God’s instruction was that nothing was to be taken from the city once it was conquered. The soldiers were carefully briefed as to the rules of engagement for this mission. He knew that he was to take nothing. When the battle was over and the other members of his company had withdrawn to their base, he saw a beautiful robe from Babylonia, 200 shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels. A shekel is about 0.5 ounces or 14 grams in our modern weight. He had 2800 grams of silver and 700 grams of gold in addition to the expensive robe. Achan hid them in his tent. The gold was worth $27,821.37 U.S and the silver $1512.00 U.S in today’s market. It was forbidden, but he could not resist the temptation to take it. He probably went home thinking how this new found wealth would improve life for him and his family. Little did he know that possession of those items would be his downfall.
Later, the army of Israel was given another assignment. It was to conquer the small city of Ai. The city was so small that Joshua did not think it was necessary to send all of his troops on the mission. Israel expected a quick victory but to the surprise of everyone, Israel got a sound beating. Israel withdrew in ignominy, licking its wounds and mourning its losses. They knew that something was wrong.
Joshua held an inquiry into the defeat. After consulting God, he was led to Achan as the one whose sin had precipitated the humiliating defeat. Achan admitted his wrongdoing. A search of his tent revealed the hidden spoil. He was guilty of violating the command of God and the penalty was death by stoning. That day, he along with his sons and his belongings perished. Achan’s sin was that of greed.
What is the warning for Christians? Jesus himself sounds the warning against greed of all kinds. Our lives do not consist of the abundance of things we have. Stay away from greed is Jesus’ advice (Luke 12:15)
The Apostle Paul in Col.3:5 admonishes Christians to put away greed along with other fleshly desires. The love of money is a root of all evil. It can cause one to wander from the faith and bring horrendous troubles into one’s life (1Tim 6:10). Christians are encouraged to be contented and trust God to take care of their needs rather than using their energy to pursue wealth.
Achan put aside the word of God so he could satisfy his greedy, fleshly desire. He found out the hard way that his action did not bring the happiness and enjoyment that he thought it would bring. Achan’s story teaches us that we should set our minds on things above and not on earthly things. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: … evil desires and greed, which is idolatry”(Col.3:2,5).