Reflection: Dangerous Decisions—Learning From the Mistakes of Lot and Achan

By Ian Gustafson, 19, USA

I. Defining Moments

“I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!”

Many people remembers Kanye West’s outburst at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. He suggested that Beyonce, rather than Swift, should have won the Best Female Video honor.

It wasn’t long before Kanye found himself assaulted by criticism. He apologized online and in countless interviews. Despite his popularity as an artist, this incident became Kanye West’s defining moment. It is a harsh reminder that bad decisions have drastic consequences on one’s life and reputation.

Proverbs 2:20-22 tells us to avoid such a downfall. “Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous. For only the godly will live in the land, and those with integrity will remain in it. But the wicked will be removed from the land, and the treacherous will be uprooted.”

The idea of losing things—be it popularity, wealth, or even life—due to character flaws and poor decisions is unsettling. Believe it or not, the Bible tells tales similar to that of Kanye West, two of whom are Lot and Achan. Let’s learn from their mistakes so that we will do things we will never regret.

II. The Hold of Sin

So what are Lot’s and Achan’s stories? Well, we read of Lot in Genesis 13, 14 and 19. He is the nephew of Abram. And Achan was an Israelite whom we read of in Joshua 7, right after the defeat of Jericho.

Though they live in different time period, these two men have one thing in common—their bad decisions brought about tragedy in their lives.

Lot’s battle with sin is evident when he is first introduced in Genesis 13. At that time, he and Abram share the same land. However they spit the land in half due to the strife between their herdsmen.

Abram offers Lot the first pick and he chooses the lushest half, which seems like the natural choice. However, we soon learn that it was due to a flaw in Lot’s character. Self-interest and greed drove Lot’s decision. And this decision proves disastrous later.

Character flaws are like weeds—they grow fastest when they are ignored and become increasing difficult to pull out. We need to uproot such weeds as soon as they first appear.

Achan’s sin, on the other hand, is made clear at the beginning of Joshua 7. After the Israelites defeated Jericho, God instructed them to not take spoils from the city for themselves.

Immediately, the writer states that Achan disobeyed God and took spoils from the city. Now, since we don’t know much about Achan, it’s easy to think of this sin as a slip-up. But remember: God had just brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, provided them with food in the desert, protected them against every enemy they came up against, and performed miracle after miracle. Not to mention the Hebrew men had been circumcised which symbolized their commitment to God.

Achan’s problem was his greed. He saw the riches in Jericho and he lusted after it. One thing we can learn from him is that lack of opportunity to commit a sin doesn’t necessarily mean that the sin isn’t in our hearts. We must be vigilant and purpose in our hearts to do God’s will always. This way, when temptation reveals itself, we’ll be ready to resist it with God’s help.
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III. Losing Focus

After Lot and Abram split their land, Lot settled near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These two cities were very wealthy, hence Lot’s attraction to them. But they were also very wicked. In 2 Peter 2:6-8, Lot is referred to as a righteous man who was tormented by the evil he saw happening around him. But he stayed regardless.

He made a poor decision to settle near Sodom and Gomorrah. He was blinded by his sin of greed. He was focused on what he could get out it—business and wealth. He probably had a great deal of fun too.

In Genesis 14, a war broke out. The land where he lived was attacked. Everything he owned was stolen. After hearing about these events, Abram gathered 318 men and attacked one of the invading armies, retrieving Lot’s possessions.

So Lot’s home had been invaded and everything he owned stolen. Still, he stayed in Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s funny that when common sense said this wasn’t a good place to stay, Lot didn’t listen. Sinful passions make us lose focus of the best way to live our lives.

Achan suffered this as well. He lost focus of his commitment to the Lord and the miracles he had witnessed. Losing sight of God is dangerous, and it turned out to be a fatal mistake in Achan’s life. As a result, thirty-six men were killed in the next battle.

We see that Achan’s greed opened the floodgates for other sins to penetrate his heart. Selfishness and dishonesty took control when he didn’t come clean about what he had done. Thirty-six of his brothers-in-arms were killed because of his sin and, thinking only of himself, he decided to hide it. Losing focus of God caused him to lose focus of conscience and compassion.

IV. Losing Touch with Reality

Lot’s loss of focus peaks in Genesis 19. God sent two angels to Sodom and Gomorrah to inform Lot and his family that God intended to destroy the cities for their vile ways. When Lot spotted them, he immediately invited them to his home and insisted that they do not sleep in the city square. It seems as though Lot was suddenly embarrassed by the things happening in the cities and didn’t want the angels to see it or fall prey to the cities’ residents.

What a reality check! Lot had been unsettled by the sin he saw but ultimately valued his own sin (greed) too much to leave. When he found two heavenly servants at his doorstep, it seemed like he snapped out of it.

Achan, on the other hand, seemed to be convinced he wouldn’t get caught. In Joshua 17:14 and 15, God instructed Joshua to gather all the Israelites. They were to step forward according to their tribe so God Himself could point out who committed the sin. The process would go from tribe to clan, clan to family, and family to man.

Throughout the entire process, Achan knew he was guilty. He had many chances to confess. But each time he kept quiet. The fact that his family, clan, tribe, and all of Israel were being brought in for the investigation apparently meant nothing to him. He made himself oblivious to reality and the danger he had brought upon himself.
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V. Our Sins Hurts Those around Us

Sin blinds us to encroaching danger and deafens us to God’s voice. Both Lot and Achan were convinced that their actions weren’t affecting anyone else. And they both realized their error the hard way.

When the men of Sodom and Gomorrah spotted Lot’s guests, they demanded that he sent them out so they could rape his guests. Lot pleaded with them. But they became angry that an outsider to their culture was judging them. They declared that they would treat him far worse than they would his visitors. They then tried to break into Lot’s house. What a terrifying situation! Not only was Lot’s greed and selfishness threatening his own wellbeing, it now put his guests and his family in grave danger!

The angels blinded the men and instructed Lot to fetch all his relatives in the city and take shelter in the mountains. God had sent them to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot did as per instructed but his sons-in-law thought he was joking. They stayed in the city. His wife gazed back at the city as they made their escape. As a result, she became a pillar of salt. While hiding in a cave, his daughters, probably influenced by the sin they saw in the city, got him drunk and had sex with him in order to have children. Their descendants were the Moabites and the Ammonites, both thorns in the side of Abram’s offspring.

As for Achan, all of Israel was affected by his sin when thirty-six soldiers died in battle. His tribe and clan came under suspicion because of him. The text suggests that his family were dragged into the conspiracy to cover up his sin. It was only when God pointed out the guilty one to Joshua that Achan finally came clean. As a result, Achan and his family were put to death, and all he owned destroyed.

VI. Conclusion

Lot’s and Achan’s defining moments were tragic. They allowed sin to get a hold of them, and caused them to loose focus on what truly mattered. It invited new sins into their lives and made them ignorant to how they were hurting those around them.

How can we avoid making the same mistakes that Lot and Achan made? By taking our characters flaws seriously and by praying: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139: 23-24). Additionally, let us stay vigilant toward sin and, with God’s help, resist temptation. If we do these things, our defining moments will be that which glorifies God.

This reflection is based on the Discovery Series booklet Dangerous Decisions: Learning From The Mistakes of Lot & Achan by Dan Schaeffer. Read the Discovery Series booklet here.

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