KEY TEXT: Joshua 7:16-26 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me." And Achan answered Joshua, "Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath." So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, "Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today." And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.
KEY THOT: It has been famously said that greed is good because "Greed drives the economy". But in Achan's case, it was greed (covetousness) that drove himself and his family to ruin and destruction. The sin of the father was visited not only on him but also upon his children: "when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them."
Covetousness is a sin that is condemned in the Ten Commandments: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." Covetousness is a strong desire to take things that do not belong to us. It's a strong desire to keep up with the Joneses. It can lead to theft or unethical behaviour that violates the moral integrity of the person involved.
For Christians, greed and covetousness must never be the foundation of our work ethics. It will destroy us and our children as well, as in the case of Achan. Paul has a strong warning against greed and covetousness, which he defines as the "love of money":
- 1 Timothy 6:8-10 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare (trap), into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Paul considers this desire for wealth and money as the root of all sort of evils and compromises with sin. And it is this craving that has caused many believers to wander away from their faith and lose their life with God. Such believers have chosen to love the world, and the love of the Father is no longer in them. We cannot love the world and love God at the same time. Either we love God and hate Mammon (money) or we love Money and hate God:
- Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
This love for money is the temptation that those who are involved in direct sales are particularly exposed to. When they yield to it, they open the floodgate of other sins to enter into their lives: lies, deceit, sabotage and even offering sexual favours in exchange for contracts (which is like prostitution). And these other sins that accompany greed will lead a believer into ruin and destruction--just as it did to Achan. And sadly, often the family also had to pay the price.
However, the foundation of Christian work ethics is not greed but service: "even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Even for those who are in sales, providing excellence in terms of service both before and after the sales is the foundation of good salesmanship. If we are focused on providing good service to help our clients and customers acquire what they want, our reputation will go before us. We will get more referrals from satisfied clients and customers. But if we are known to be manipulative and deceitful in dealings, this will also get shared (through social media) and it will destroy our reputation, not to say our career in sales.
May we provide excellent service in whatever work we do, because it is a testimony to the Lord's own Servant-King ethos. He came to serve, not to be served. And we will acquire a reputation for good service that will not compromise our integrity as believers.
Abba-Father, You have warned us against covetousness, especially for those who are in the sales work. May self-less service be our foundation for all work and ministry. Amen.