Monday, May 14, 2018

Achan and Eve

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to sinning: Eve’s and Achan’s.

At Jericho, Achan saw treasure forbidden by the word of God, lusted after it, took it and hid it away, buried in the earth inside his tent. But I can assure you it would not have stayed there. Achan had never stopped to work out any sort of strategy by which he might benefit from his sin. That was just plain stupid.

At least the Eve Method — wicked, shortsighted and ultimately destructive as it was — had the advantage of being intellectually coherent.

Having seen something she desired, Eve took it and enjoyed it, then promptly shared it with the only person who might correctly identify the nature of her rebellion and bring it speedily to God’s attention. Making Adam her accomplice spread the guilt around and put the spotlight squarely on Adam (look whose sin God addressed first). This is how sin always operates. Satan did not fall alone.

The Drawbacks of Secret and Solitary Sin

The Achan Method of sinning secretly and solitarily simply does not work, not least because you cannot ever really enjoy the fruit of your disobedience alone. Gold and silver do not spoil easily in the ground under a tent, but a beautiful cloak certainly will, and you cannot spend or otherwise benefit from treasure that remains buried even if you always know precisely where it lies.

Further, Achan quickly discovered that it was necessary to involve his own family in his cover-up. Israel had to move on to conquer the next city. The stakes of Achan’s tent had to be pulled up. The concealment process had to be gone through once again, and surely his secret could not be kept indefinitely. That Achan’s kindred were in on the conspiracy is strongly indicated from the punishment subsequently inflicted on them. It is well established that God does not judge the righteous with the wicked.

Nice work, dad.

A Temporary Fix

Further yet, Achan found to his horror that his sin, secret as it may have been, impacted the community in which he lived. The consequences of Achan’s sin were experienced by his nation just as surely as the consequences of Eve’s have been experienced by all her descendants. Their blood was on Achan’s head.

In short, the Achan Method does not work. It is the most temporary of temporary fixes, and those who resort to it quickly realize their mistake. No matter how careful you might be, that affair you thought you handled so discreetly will begin to impact your marriage, your family and even your church. It may not be that, at least initially, you encounter the direct judgment of God, though that may certainly happen. But even if you do not, your own guilt will poison and ruin your other relationships until you either come clean or, like Cain, decide to make a run for it.

Spreading Evil Around

This is why the Eve Method is so common. Paul notes that sin invariably spreads. The sinner himself is desperate to spread it, and can’t wait to applaud those who join him in it:
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
We also find the Eve Method in the Bible’s wisdom literature. Proverbs says of wicked people:
“They are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.”
We find it in Old Testament history:
“There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.”

“And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin.”
Thus the apostle warns Timothy not to “take part in the sins of others”. The last thing the servant of God wants to do is to have his name publicly associated with departure from the faith or from ungodly practice.

The Deep Things of Satan

The Eve Method is why we have false teachers in the churches. For the sinner, it is wholly inadequate to enjoy false doctrine privately. By bringing others into our own errors, we rationalize them to ourselves. The more people we can deceive with false teaching, the more we convince ourselves that our pet heresy or departure from orthodoxy must be legitimate. Thus the “Jezebel” of Revelation is said to be “teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” Meditating on the mysteries of Satan in the privacy of her own heart did not satisfy Jezebel. Those “deep things” demanded to be shared.

If we must be blunt about it, gay pride parades exist for precisely this reason. Sin cannot be enjoyed by the sinner so long as there are any voices at all left to cry out “Sin! Ungodly! False! Wrong! Error! Judgment coming!” or any combination thereof. So the LGBTQ crowd takes to the streets with the intention of intimidating into silence the remaining few who still insist their lifestyles are sinful.

Is that a pattern we wish to start emulating?

Changing the Environment

I recently read of a denominational Christian who started an anti-biblical practice in his own church. Of course it did not end there. Shortly he was on the internet advertising the dubious merits of his own error in hope of gathering support from others and spreading the practice throughout the churches. That sort of thing is not unusual. In fact, it’s the only logical way departure from the truth can possibly go. Practicing sin in a corner never satisfies the sinner. You cannot enjoy the “gold” under your tent if your immediate environment prevents you from digging it up and showing it around to the envy of others.

So the trick is to change anything about the external environment that may be hostile to your new pet practices or doctrines.

The problem with the Eve Method, of course, is that there are tremendous penalties in scripture for stumbling others. Do we need to talk about millstones and destruction? Surely not.

But since the Achan Method fails so reliably, what else is left for the obdurate?

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