Summary: A sermon on accountability starting with Joshua 7 (Outline and material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, What the Bible Says About the Church: Rediscovering Community, Chapter 3 Communally Responsible, pages 80-93)
On a cruise ship, some stewards and sailors became concerned about a clanging noise from one of the cabins. They forced open the door to this cabin and saw that a man was taking a pick ax to the side of the boat. The stewards and sailors restrained this man and asked him, “What are you doing, if you manage to put a hole in the side of the ship, we will take on water and might sink?” The man said, “How dare you! I bought this cabin and what I do in it is my business. What do you care, it’s on my side of the ship?!”
“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”” Genesis 4:9, NIV. Even though God did not respond directly to Cain, much of the Bible responds with a “Yes” we are responsible for our neighbors.
N.T. Wright says this (recognize some of this from yesteryear): Anyone growing up in an average African town has dozens of friends up and down the street; indeed, many children live within to our eyes would look like a massive and confusing extended family, with virtually every adult within walking distance being treated as an honorary aunt or uncle in a way that is unimaginable to many of us. In such a community, there exist multiple networks of support, encouragement, rebuke, and warning, all of this keeps everyone together and gives people a shared sense of direction or at least, when things are bad, a shared sense of misfortune. Those who live our in our society don’t even realize what they’re missing. In fact, many might be alarmed at the thought of all that togetherness. In such a community, everyone is in it together, for good or ill.
When someone becomes a Christian, he or she enters a community in which individuals hold responsibility for one another, where “everyone is in to together, for good or ill.” When we belong to the church, our actions- whether positive or negative- impact everyone.
Thesis: Let’s talk about accountability this morning
The Community Accountable to God
Sharing the guilt of the individual
God’s people stand accountable for any sin that infects the community, the church. Elders and other leaders are concerned because they must given an account, but all of us should be concerned because in some way we are all accountable.
Considering this, the OT gives various laws, and on 10 occasions Moses repeats this same phrase, “You must purge the evil from among you.” Those who had infected the community with sin could no longer remain a part of the community; in fact, they faced the punishment of death- usually a stoning at the hands of the community. This communal execution of justice demonstrated corporate responsibility for sin, and corporate desire for purity.
When the Israelites destroyed Jericho, God commanded them to keep away from Jericho’s plunder. They were to destroy everything except for the precious metals, which they were to add to the Lord’s treasury. Achan, however, greedily took some of this plunder for himself and hid it in the ground inside his tent. His disobedience brought guilt to the entire community. See the repetition of they in vs. 11.
One man sinned, unknown to everyone else; yet God’s anger burned against the whole community. The community bore the guilt of the individual. As a result, when Israel waged war against AI, the soldiers of AI defeated Israel, killing about 36 of them. Today is Memorial Day and we are thankful to those who paid the price of laying down their lives for our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. Thousands upon thousands died for our freedoms. How upsetting it would be if their sacrifice was for nothing! We need to fight for the cause of the gospel for that is where our freedoms have sprang from. If not all of those people have died in vain.
When they attacked Jericho, the Lord was present among them and gave victory. When they attacked Ai, God explained that the community had “been made liable to destruction (vs. 12).” Achan’s sin resulted in God’s absence from the community. “I will not be with you any more unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (vs. 12).”
We see what happened to Achan and his family in Joshua 7:24-26. Talk about NT in a bit
Standing or falling together
God held the entire community responsible to maintain purity. For Israel to enjoy His blessing, including military victory, they must create and maintain a holy environment in which God would dwell. Any sin present among God’s people threatens the purity of the community, and, therefore, places that community in an impure state in which God will not dwell and will not bless.