“And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto Jehovah, I have sinned greatly in that which I have done: but now, O Jehovah, put away, I beseech thee, the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (2 Samuel 24:10).
I spent seven years in the business world between 1995 and 2002. I remember it being fast-paced. CEOs crunched numbers to determine where profit margins could be maximized. Sales force members were driven to garner in the latest clients. In my first job, each salesman measured his sales in tens of millions of dollars. We produced large data transport systems for the telecommunications industry. It was all very impressive to me, and very results driven. The market was very competitive.
We do ourselves a huge disservice when we treat the church like the business world. It is the utmost folly to appoint business men who have little spiritual content in their life to the eldership or the deaconate. Don’t get me wrong; a spiritually minded man, who is also a businessman, may do well in the eldership, or as a deacon, but many times we look at a man’s business acumen and fail to discern his spiritual qualities, or lack thereof. The church is not a business, and it should not be. What happens when the eldership and the deaconate become filled with unspiritual business men? We become results oriented. We measure things by the bottom line.
I’m not thinking just about money. The bottom line does not always have to be money. It can be completion of tasks or projects. It can be building repairs and improvements. It can be the implementation and management of programs. It can be an unhealthy focus upon works. It can be whether we deem our mission works “successful.” It can be our efforts at evangelism, counting bible studies or bodies baptized. It can be counting daily Bible readers, or counting the number of people who visited or whom we visited, or any number of other things wherein we can demonstrate “success” with a number. This is the heart of what it means to be results oriented.
This never works with the church because the church is not a product, the church is a people, and we should be people focused. People are not predictable. They have free-will. You never really know what they are going to do. For this reason, they can never be “results.” People are not results. When we look at people as if they are a result, we dehumanize them. They cease being people and start becoming a commodity. Jesus didn’t die for a commodity; He died for people. Things are commodities; people are not commodities. Things may be abused, misused, and destroyed. People may not be abused, misused, and destroyed. Our mistake is that we use people and love things when we should be loving people and using things (thank you Dick Sztanyo for this point)!
What do we lose when we are results oriented? People. People become means to an end. We are telling ourselves that they are only so good as the next task, program, project, work, facility upgrade, evangelistic campaign, mission trip, sermon, Bible class, tally–when the truth is that people are the end. The people are the ones we are serving. The people are the ones who have eternal value. The people are the ones with whom we will live in eternity forever, and we/I am one of them. It goes back to pride/selfishness. We want to be able to say, “Look at our numbers!” “Look at our programs!” “Look at our accomplishments!” “Look at our facilities!” “Look at our works!” We should be saying, “Look at God’s people.” The people are the accomplishment. Paul said, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
The glory that will be received in heaven isn’t going to be the number of tasks that we finished on the earth. It isn’t going to be the great edifices that we constructed, the number of projects we completed, or the great works that we accomplished–it will be the people that we influenced for God. The people are our crown! Really Solomon had it right when he prayed to God, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” (2 Chronicles 1:10). He was concerned about governing/shepherding the people. That is the right concern. I have always read “great” to mean “great in number.” Perhaps that is what he meant, I don’t know. Could it be possible that Solomon meant that God’s people–God’s creation–those made in the image of God–are valuable? That is to say, that God’s people are valuable, and they deserve someone with skill to govern them. It is certainly true whether that is what Solomon meant or not.
God’s people are valuable, and they do need someone who is wise and understanding of heart, someone who has wisdom and knowledge to shepherd them. I’ve always wondered why it was wrong for David to number the people. What is so bad about that? It doesn’t seem like a serious sin to me. I’ve heard the explanations over the years. “David didn’t trust in God.” “David loved himself more than God.” “David didn’t obey.” etc. Though all of these things are true, none of these explanations have really satisfied me. Maybe now I have a clearer understanding. David’s real sin here is that he treated God’s people as if they were just objects. He failed to love them as people. He decided that the bottom line was more important than the people that he served, and perhaps thought that those people belonged to him, not God. If so, he failed to love himself properly also, because he reduced his own value to the number of folks he had in his army. David was worth so much more than that number. And that is ultimately what we do when we are results oriented. We reduce our own value to something less than what God says our value is, because we measure ourselves in terms of results, not in terms of God.
The goal of service and ministry is people. We must constantly focus upon that goal or we will lose ourselves in the minutia of tasks, and forget to see the most precious thing that is before us–the souls of men. At the end of Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie gives the Everlasting Gobstopper back to Willie Wanka. It is at that moment that Willy Wanka realizes what a gem Charlie is. Wanka wasn’t looking for someone who defined himself in terms of things. He was looking for a person who valued himself more than he valued candy. Things are not what is important. People are important. When we truly love ourselves (not defining ourselves by some object), we can love our fellow and do God’s true work–serve other people. After all, who needs “results” when we have one another?