Living on Purpose: Does the sin we commit in secret only hurt us?

Published 3:55 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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By Billy Holland


The sin of Achan found in Joshua 6:17-19 is a powerful example of how one person committing evil in private can negatively affect their family, church congregation, or place of employment. “Now brother, what people do is their own business and it has nothing to do with me. If people want to cheat others, or lie, curse, and steal, or watch porn, what’s that to me?” I can tell you what God’s word says about it. Being dedicated to others through the bond of our word, and especially if we are a spiritual family bound together in a sacred covenant with God, our association with them means we represent them and we are accountable for our attitudes and actions. Listen to this story found in Joshua chapter 6 and how what this one man did in secret became devastating to those he loved and everyone he was committed with.

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Israel had just conquered the city of Jericho in a fantastic display of God’s power and favor. The Lord had instructed Israel not to take any of the spoils of war for themselves but to devote “everything” to God. Very specific, and when God makes a command, He is not just kidding around. Remember, Lot’s wife was told not to turn around and look at the city as they were fleeing. She did and turned into a pillar of salt. Anyway, during the heat of battle, Achan saw an opportunity to make a few bucks, so he took a fancy garment, 200 shekels of silver (about $300.00 in today’s value), and a wedge of gold (worth about $25,000.00 today) and buried it in his tent. No one saw what he did, and he did not even tell his family. How many parents and church members have secret sins hidden in their closets that no one knows about, all the while acting like everything is fine?

The next battle was with a small city called AI, which should have been an easy victory, yet Israel’s army became paralyzed with fear and in the chaos, thirty-six of their soldiers were killed. Wives lost their husbands and children lost their fathers. Joshua and the elders fell on their faces and cried out to God because they did not understand what in the world had happened. God said that someone had disobeyed His orders and that He had withdrawn His blessing and favor in this military confrontation. This was not just an individual crime; it was a national sin that affected everyone. The sin of one part was the sin of the whole. When one succeeded, they were all victorious, but when one failed, they all failed. Do you believe this “one body” analogy is still true today?

We should also notice that God was personally involved. It was, after all, His nation. Today, we see that it’s also His church, and the way His people conduct their lives is of intense concern to Him. This story clearly illustrates sin’s leavening effect, as mentioned in Galatians 5:9. This wicked deed was not just going away. Until a correction was made, the damage was increasing. The Lord told Joshua what to do, and through a lengthy process of investigation, Achan was brought before Joshua, and he confessed what he had done. He had stolen from the Lord. Joshua sent servants to dig them up and the items were brought before him and all the congregation became a witness.

What was the sentence? Here is chapter 7 and verses 24-26. “And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones and burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over them a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore that place was called, The valley of Achor, and is unto this day.” Does this story bother you? It does me. Next week, we will discuss secret sin more and whether God has become more lenient in His discipline.

Dr. Billy Holland is a Christian minister, author, and community chaplain. Read more about the Christian life at