Helping Our Children Confess

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1, ESV).

Yesterday, as I read the first chapters of Joshua, an account brought back memories of the “old days” — the days when it was obvious that one of the kids had done something naughty. The evidence was all there. But no one would own up to it.

I was reading in Joshua 7. The Israelites had just been part of God’s glorious defeat of Jericho. He told them to march around the city once a day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day, and they did what He said. Trumpets, a mighty shout, and the walls of the city came down. Moving on to the next city, the scouts recommended sending a small force to takethe town. Ai was small. “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few” (Joshua 7:3).

But what should have been an easy victory compared to Jericho ended in a retreat, with thirty-six men killed. Joshua calls out to God. “What will the Canaanites think?” “God, what about Your glory?”

God tells Joshua that someone has taken spoil from Jericho, contrary to the clear command to leave everything but the gold, silver, bronze, and iron for the Lord’s treasury. He gives instructions to Joshua. He tells him to consecrate the people for tomorrow. Everyone knows something is up, but God is going to let the culprit live with his conscience all night.

The next morning, after Joshua carefully follows God’s instructions, Achan is eventually identified as the thief. I love what Joshua does next. He doesn’t say, “It’s about time! Look at all the trouble you’ve caused! Nice work, Achan! Didn’t you hear what I said? Look what you’ve done now! We lost the battle. Men died, and it’s all your fault. Wow, are you ever in trouble!”

No. He looks Achan in the eye and says, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me” (Joshua 7:19, NKJV).

“My son,” he calls him. What a gentle way to start.

“I appeal to you.” No anger. No scolding. Just an appeal.

“Give glory to God.” This is all about God and His glory.

“Confess to Him.” He’s the one you’ve sinned against.

“Tell me what you have done.” I’m ready to listen.

“Don’t hide it from me.” God already knows.

Achan pours out the whole story. “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done…” (Josh. 7:20, NKJV). He’s sinned, and he’s ready to acknowledge it, despite the punishment that will follow.

We can make it difficult for our children to confess their sins, or we can make it less challenging.

We can demand immediate repentance, or we can give the Holy Spirit time to work in their hearts.

We can self-righteously attack, or we can humbly come alongside.

We can turn their sin into a personal vendetta, or we can help them remember that they have sinned against God.

We can rant and rave about our inconvenience, or we can make God’s glory the issue.

We can belittle and berate and inspire fear and bitterness, or we can quietly appeal to their consciences, gently leading them to humble restoration.

We can leave them without hope or peace, or we can point them to the finished work of Christ.

We can treat them like God treats us, or we can play the accuser – like Satan.

Lord, help us, like Joshua, to be a picture of God’s grace in the lives of our children.


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