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An All-Consuming Parable

There was a society that was extraordinarily gifted in making things. Most people created what they needed themselves. Some of them developed the ability to make certain things much better than others could make the same items. Over time, they not only could make them better, but also could make them faster and cheaper, even at scale.

While this was quite the accomplishment, the problem was that these producers began to have their warehouses filled with their goods. Creative members of this group found ways to tell large number of people about their wares, and how if folks would buy their products instead of making the items themselves, they would save time and have better products.

All of these ideas caught on. The people began to specialize in what they produced best, and sold them to each other in order to buy others’ products. Life got easier.

As people grew to enjoy consuming each others’ products, a dynamic equilibrium was approached between production and consumption. However, as people learned to consume ready-made items, they became interested in newer and more types of products, which increased demand for new producers. So growth occurred instead of reaching equilibrium. This was good.

Why Penn State’s NCAA Penalty Hits Us So Viscerally

{RJW Note: I appreciate everyone’s patience and expressed concern over the last several months as I took a much needed writing sabbatical. There is much about which to write as my heart has refilled.}

Joshua 7 tells the story of Achan, who kept some of the treasures of Jericho in direct violation of God’s command. It is not clear how many knew of it, but his disobedience caused Israel to be defeated when it attacked a small hamlet. When confronted by Joshua and the elders, he readily confessed. His punishment was not only loss of the treasure, but to be stoned along with his sons, daughters, and all of his livestock. Finally, their bodies, the treasure and all of his possessions were burned and buried.

One man’s “little” private sin impacted an entire nation, before they even knew of it. Once they found out, he was tried and convicted, with a punishment that spread beyond his own complete ruin, to that of his entire family, and innocent livestock. Scripture does not indicate if his family knew of his theft or not, so I will not make an argument from silence.

The corporate impact of Achan’s sin was the topic of Sunday’s sermon at church. As I and many in the nation wrestled this week with the NCAA’s punishment of Penn State for the coverup of Coach Sandusky’s pedophilia, the similarities to Achan kept resonating in my spirit.

A principle in Scripture is the longer sin occurs and is hidden, the deeper and more far-reaching the consequences. Achan’s sin was discovered relatively quickly whereas Sandusky’s lasted over a decade. Yet both devastated a nation, not just the immediate victims.

Many have complained that the penalties are too harsh—they unnecessarily punish the students, alumni, players, and even the Paterno family. I feel terrible for each of these groups, especially the players, the Paternos, and also the Sandusky family. Watching JoePat’s statue come down was difficult, and I’ve never even been to Happy Valley. The scandal is devastating to one of the most sterling reputations in our nation. The sanctions rub salt and vinegar into still bleeding wounds.