I hated working at Walmart.
Crazy customers, moody coworkers, long hours on my feet. There was nothing fun about it. The worst part was dealing with theft.
At the customer service desk, a LOT of customers would bring in something they’d stolen and ask for a refund. After a while, you could spot one of these customers from a mile away because they all stole the same stuff: small, but expensive.
At first, these customers stressed me out. What could I do or say to prevent them from stealing? How could I make sure they couldn’t do it next time, or at least make it harder?
But soon, as time went by, I stopped caring. I gave them their stupid refunds. Because who cared if they were technically breaking the law? I was there to work. They could take care of themselves and their own consequences.
Good thing I wasn’t alive during Bible times, especially during the showdown that takes place in Joshua 22.
Joshua has finished handing out the land inheritance from the west side of the Jordan River. Now it was finally time to send the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh back to the east side of the Jordan, to the land they had picked out years ago.
They packed up, said their goodbyes, headed back, and built a huge altar.
Everyone’s happy, right? Wrong. The tribes on the west of the Jordan freaked out when they heard about the eastern tribes’ altar. They assumed the worst: that the eastern tribes had deserted the real God and were worshipping idols.
An emergency meeting and a trip across the Jordan later, the eastern tribes and the western tribes stand face to face. And I’m sure there was more than one person wondering: is this really necessary?
My brother’s keeper
It’s me. I’m the one wondering if this is necessary.
Because, look, I’m a person that prefers to stay fifteen feet away from other people’s business. I don’t want to bother you or lecture you. I don’t want to tell you my opinion. I want to keep my eyes on my own work. I’ll leave you alone, so please also leave me alone.
But this chapter of the Bible demonstrates the complete opposite. The western tribes were invested in the eastern tribes’ business. They wanted to set the record straight. They travelled across an entire river to tell the eastern tribes that they thought they were wrong.
And although the Bible doesn’t definitively say in this chapter who was right and who was wrong, this story has me thinking. Were the western tribes actually doing something good here?
Their main argument is sound: if the eastern tribes sin and push God away, the consequences could affect the entire nation of Israel (verses 18, 20).
But aside from all that, these people were family. They were brothers and sisters in the Lord. They loved each other, or at least they were supposed to.
And if you see someone you love putting themselves in danger, don’t you want to stop them? If you see someone you love heading down a dark path, shouldn’t you call out to them?
Maybe we should speak up to each other more often, in love.
Maybe we should gently remind our family of what the Bible says.
Maybe we should be willing to cross a river to sit down with our friends and ask them what’s going on.
Maybe we should care if we see someone else sin.
Because when it comes to matters of life and death, shouldn’t we be ready and willing to step in?
“I want all of my children to come to Me.”
The meeting between the eastern and western tribes of Israel didn’t last long.
The eastern tribes insisted that the altar they had built was a sign that the Lord was their God, no matter what. These words calmed the western tribes. Relieved, they traveled back across the Jordan.
“The Lord is God”. This is what it comes down to.
Because even though the eastern tribes and the western tribes initially had different ideas of what true devotion to God looked like, no one forced anyone else to worship exactly the way they did or live exactly how they did. All they needed to know was that both sides believed in and served the same God.
Too many times Christians try to dictate what other people should do, what traditions they should keep, or what worship style they should prefer.
But we’re missing the bottom line. If, despite our different opinions and varying interpretations of the Bible, we both believe that the Lord is God, then we need to calm down. It’s good to have a conversation. It’s okay to disagree. It’s even okay to think you’re right.
But our responsibility as Christians isn’t to police everyone’s opinions. It’s to point everyone to Jesus.
It’s to point everyone to the Source of all love and wisdom and power.
It’s to remind everyone that He gives the ultimate answer to our questions.
It’s to rest in the knowledge that He will show us His truth.
It’s to take comfort in the fact that the Lord is God and we are not.
Instead of judging others, let’s show others Jesus.
God will take it from there.
What do you think? What did you think of what the western tribes did in this chapter?