by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/27/15.
But some have argued that there is something spiritual about “not counting.” They would point to God’s displeasure with King David for ordering a census of the people in 1 Chronicles 21:1 – 30. However, 1 Chronicles 21:1 reveals that it was Satan who inspired David to conduct this counting of his troops. Even against the counsel of his commander Joab, who discerned David’s inappropriate motivation, David conducts the census. David’s motivation for the census was to revel in the strength of his army. But God wanted David to put his trust in God’s protection, rather than the size of his forces. Hence, wrong motivation and wrong instigation led to an inappropriate counting.
Elsewhere in the Bible, numberings are conducted for meaningful reasons with helpful results. In Numbers 1:2 and 26:2 God commands numberings of all Israel along with every segment of each tribe before and after the desert wanderings. In the Gospel accounts we witness accurate countings of Jesus’ team of disciples, and in Luke 10:1 – 24 we see a company of 72 disciples sent out two by two. In the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3 – 7, only by counting the sheep does the shepherd become aware that one is missing from the fold. If counting those we are entrusted were odious to Jesus, certainly he would eliminate such imagery from his teaching. And in Acts 1:15; 2:41; 4:4; Luke records the growth of the church by a careful record of its numerical increase. McGavran concludes “on biblical grounds one has to affirm that devout use of the numerical approach is in accord with God’s wishes. On the practical grounds, it is as necessary in congregations and denominations as honest financial dealing.”
The above is excerpted from the sidebar, “Is Counting Biblical”, Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Abingdon Press).