Counting Things Is A Sin

King David famously brought a plague on Israel because he counted the people of Israel. Even Joab knew that it was a sin, but David's word prevailed against him. The people were counted, it was discovered that 1,570,000 men who drew the sword dwelled in Israel and Judah, and then the Lord brought calamity upon Israel.

1 Chronicles 21 is very dense, and worthy of much study, along with its parallel passage, 2 Samuel 24. But let us not engage in much exegesis; this is, after all, a blog post. See if what I have to say makes any sense. If it does, go back and do your own manful studies.

Here's what I have to say: counting things is a sin.

It is tempting at this point to qualify. Just admitting to that is a qualification of sorts, but I wish to not equivocate. If I say that fairy tales are true, I mean that one hundred percent, and I leave it up to you to decide what I mean. I will now talk about why counting things is a sin, and let you in wisdom decide what I mean.

A couple of stories involving spread sheets went viral last week. Spread sheets 'twixt the bed sheets, in fact. Some guy put together a spread sheet of all the times his wife had denied him sex during a given time period. He kept a log of sex acts, and counted up his loves. I will not link to the story, and I can report to you that I never read it, although I did read about it in several places.

I did read another, similar story. A friend posted it on my wall as part of a discussion. This was the womanly blogosphere getting back at the bro-blogosphere with the same thing: a wife had kept track of her sex life, in crass detail. This was, it will not surprise you to learn, done as a precursor to divorce. I will not link to that story either. I kind of wish I'd never read it.

It's easy enough to imagine the hate festering between the couple as their marriage careens horrifically toward divorce. But imagine the feeling as you are engaged in the sex that you have been counting and numbering and nit-picking. Keeping accounts can only lead to feeling robbed. This particular act of love, my dear, goes only a little way toward settling your great debt to me.

Adam was a great zoologist. He went about naming all livestock, and every bird of the heavens, and every beast of the field. The Lord God brought them to Adam, but I like to imagine that this involved him climbing mountains and diving depths, accompanied by the mighty Son-Theophany. "Hey Adam, meet this thing I spoke, eatin' grass on a mountainside so steep." "I think I'll call it a sheep."

Adam went about naming the creatures because he needer a helper suitable to him. Or he needed a helper suitable to him because he was naming all the animals. And when he was given this greatest of gifts, he named her Woman, because she was taken out of Man. She was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.

And Adam in the Garden must have loved every thing he named. He knew everything he named. Perhaps not completely, but truly. 

Even now we know all things we name, if not completely, then truly. If we name things we comprehend, we encompass, we move toward their hearts. This is true even of evils, which if we truly name we penetrate to conquer.

When I was young I decided to keep a log of a sin, a specific sin which I will not here name, but which you are welcome to speculate over if you wish to rob me of modesty. I told myself I would gradually begin to sin this sin less and less, since I had failed to stop cold turkey, if I counted the number of each sin and gradually phased it out.

Please. It didn't take long before I was trying to break records, to see how how many tally marks I could get down.

By the grace of God I stopped counting, which had in itself been a sin.

People who trust in God don't count things. They name things. They name their sins, and they name Jesus. They name their loves and hates, and all their works. Because as much as there is everything, there is every thing, and every thing must receive its due.

You, sir, are no tally mark. You are named, and your name is in the Book of Life. Let us act not like the unforgiving servant, whose eyes counted, but like a forgiving lord, who is slow to anger, has much to give, and whose word is power.


  1. You got that right.

    If we are supposed "to consider ourselves dead to sin"…then it's pretty ridiculous to be counting what we have died to.

    But…there is no shortage of ridiculous things that preachers out there are telling us we should do.

    I can tell them something that they should do.

    Oops. That would be #237…for today.


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