The First Sin:
King David committed adultery and then murder...
“David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’”
~2 Samuel 12:13a (ESV)
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
~Psalm 51:1-4a (ESV)
Psalm 51 has been of huge encouragement to countless people regarding sin in their lives.
This first sin (committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband Uriah murdered) is well-known and has been preached on and taught for several thousand years. In most evangelical circles committing adultery and/or murder would have serious consequences and would, in most cases, disqualify someone for leadership for a long time, if not forever.
Most everyone has heard this story and most everyone would agree that the sin was grievous in God’s sight. We know that it carried a huge price tag for David in his personal and family life.
The average Bible-preaching, Jesus-honoring, gospel-centered church today would come down heavy on the sin of adultery. Sexual sin among leaders usually results in swift action.
But there is another sin David committed that is hardly ever mentioned. It is more prominent and widespread than adultery, but is, for the most part, overlooked, with scant attention paid to it.
The Other Sin:
King David took a census numbering the people of Israel...
“But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.’” (Emphasis mine.)
~2 Samuel 24:10 (ESV)
The story is problematic in that it appears that the Lord suggested David count the people. (2 Samuel 24:1) Perhaps the sin lies in David’s heart and motivation in the counting. At any rate, 70,000 people lost their lives as a result of David’s second sin, whereas two people (husband Uriah and the baby) lost their lives as a result of David’s first sin. So by sheer body count, the other sin was more costly.
We pay a lot of attention to the sin of adultery today, but what attention do we give to “counting.” What is the sin in this?
It was Albert Einstein who said, “A lot of what can be counted doesn’t count, and a lot of what counts can’t be counted.”
Allow me to add to that by saying that what really doesn’t count is easy to count and what really counts is hard to count.
I’m not 100% sure of what David had going on in his heart and values, but find it interesting that he says, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.” Not just sinned, but “sinned greatly.” He also goes on to say, “I have done very foolishly.”
Not just foolishly but “very foolishly.” So, he discerns in his heart that he has “sinned greatly” and done “very foolishly.” As to why he actually did what he did is open to speculation, but one thing is clear and that is that he was convicted that he had sinned greatly and acted foolishly.
So let’s talk about numbering/counting, as it goes on incessantly today in Christian circles. Now, let me be clear in saying that numbering or counting is not wrong in and of itself, but what we count and why we count is where the sin may lie.
I love 1 Corinthians 4:7 in The Message; “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?”
Having an unhealthy and unbiblical interest in knowing how much/many of anything I have as a leader and looking to that for significance can be sinful:
- Number of people in my ministry
- Number of dollars in the bank
- Number of hits on the website
- Number of followers on Twitter
- Number of friends on Facebook
- Number of attendees at conferences
- Number of subscribers to my blog site
- Number of books sold
Any of these things can become idols and replace love for/of Jesus in my heart and affections, which can lead to being driven (rather than led) to want more and more in every category mentioned above.
John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money it takes to make a man happy? His response: “Just a little bit more.” How much more do we need of the above eight mentioned items (and perhaps you can think of others) to keep us satisfied? Just a little bit more?
So fellow leader, hopefully you have not, or are not, falling into David’s first sin; and, even if you have, there is total forgiveness and restoration available to you. (Psalm51).
But where are you on “The Other Sin?” Are you attempting to get your sense of value, worth and identity by counting—and, thereby, competing and comparing with your fellow leaders?
- Is it time for you to rethink your definition of success, from God’s vantage point?
- In your heart have you rewritten, “Well done good and faithful servant” to read, well done good and successful, famous, better, most popular, fruitful servant?
- Is the grace of God and the sovereignty of God your source of stability and security or have you been looking elsewhere?