But then it all went wrong. It was learned shortly thereafter that one of the hired crew for the winning team, Peter Wann, did not possess a valid fishing license. He lied to his teammates about having a license, and they took him at his word. The license is available to North Carolina residents for $15 or twice that amount for non-residents.
Wann's mistake may not seem too serious to many, but he compounded his team's shame by going out and buying a license after the catch of the monster marlin. In total, he'll pay around $160 in fines and court costs. But, more significantly financially, since this was a violation of the tournament rules, the catch was disqualified and the team who caught a fish weighing only 528 pounds received the million dollars instead.
As I kept reading, I fully expected the team to complain and object, but I was pleasantly surprised that they accepted their fate without protest. Michael Tapp, one of the boat owners of the disqualified team, figured the tournament board would not rule in their favor. He was quoted as saying: "I think the Big Rock committee is doing what they have to do. I understand that. I'm a retired colonel. I know about rules."
This true story reminds me of the Israelites as they were preparing to enter the Promised Land and conquer it. Two-and-a-half tribes decided they were content to settle east of the Jordan River. Moses allowed it, under one condition: Their men must cross over and help fight with the other tribes to destroy the Canaanites. He said to them - "If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the LORD for the war, and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until he has driven out His enemies from before Him, and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the LORD and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:20-23).
God, through Moses, set forth the rules. The two-and-a-half tribes would choose whether or not they would play by them. It is likely some of the warriors were probably tempted to stay with their families, but God demanded that all of them cross the Jordan and help their brethren. If they refused, after giving their word, they would be punished; their sins would find them out! Ultimately, they would lose the land they wanted east of the river if they disobeyed (cf. 32:30).
Friends, may we never forget that rules are rules, and when we break them our sins will--sooner or later--find us out! Our sins may cost us a lot of money (as was the case with the fisherman) or they may cost us something even more serious--eternal life in heaven (as is the case with all unbelievers and the impenitent; cf. John 8:24; Luke 13:3). The Big Rock committee did the right thing; they did not change the rules just because a record-breaking fish had been caught. Almighty God always does the right thing; He will not change His rules for you just because you think you're "something special" (and don't we all?). God's rules apply to you, me, and everybody else (cf. John 12:48). Will we submit to them or foolishly choose to let our sins find us out?