Why are God’s leaders so quick to count and boast about what God has given them? That is an interesting question. More interesting, however, is the following question: Why does God hate this so much? Here are a few instances of this phenomenon in Scripture:
“And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” (2 Kings 20:13, ESV)
“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.’” (2 Samuel 24:10, ESV)
“And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her … So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 10:4–5; 11:6, ESV)
Many are familiar with the sensation of looking over a personal bank account that has been showered with recent funds; admiring in the mirror looks that could kill; fawning over work we have done that should win awards; reminiscing about accomplishments that the world must know; bragging about the size of our house, garage, bookshelf, etc. We may not experience all these things, but we have probably experienced one or two of them. The experience is called pride.
David, Solomon, and Hezekiah were doing the same—“look at all this stuff I have! Look at the size of my army!” On the surface, this might seem to be a good thing. Should we not rejoice in what the Lord has given us? But, when we look deeper, we see that in the hearts of these men, and in our own, lurks a hellish desire to turn our treasures into arrows pointing to our own worthiness. “I must be important if I have this much money; can do all these things; have this much stuff; look like this, etc.”
As a pastor, I have this sickness. I have the hellish desire to count how many people listen to me on Sunday; how many views on YouTube I get; how many dollars are in our church budget, etc. I think the American Church is sick too. We measure success in numbers. We are like David, Solomon, and Hezekiah fawning over attendance numbers, member rolls, turn-outs at community events, and toys, and gimmicks in church parking lots. Are we any different than these men? If not, we are grieving the heart of our Lord.
What is the solution? We must fall on our knees and seek the Spirit of God, not His blessings. We need God, not His gifts. We have enough of the gifts! We need His presence! The church is often pitiful and weak because we huddle around the show we can produce on Sunday, not the Son of God. Just today, I saw a video by a famous pastor and his wife advertising their tour across America. If you live near one of the major U.S. cities, you can see this pastor and his traveling band for only $35! What an abomination! Blasphemy! Is this the power of God or the fawning over the riches of Solomon? Is it any wonder that famous pastors tour like rock bands charging money for attendance when the procedure in the American church is to mimic the business plan of theme parks?
I, we, the church, spend so much time thinking about how we can attract people with music, games, events, shows, and glittering buildings. Have we not turned into Hezekiah, prancing around his castle with the Babylonian envoys pointing to his stuff? “And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” Do we not strut around our campuses pointing to outdoor stages with rock-concert lights, stadium seating, games for kids in the parking lot, pastors that dress like models (and some who model on the side), and messages from pulpits that shroud the gospel in self-help pandering?
This boasting is an abomination. One that I am guilty of. I repent. I turn to Christ with tears in my eyes. I ask Him to forgive me. I ask Him to help me pursue His presence, not His presents. “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.’”
May the church turn from its toys and fall on its knees and beg that the forgiveness of God would come with the blessing of His presence. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is dead. Thousands of people in a stadium do not necessarily equal a church alive with the Spirit of God. The church will be alive when people are willing to die for Christ, but many people today are not willing to go to church if there are no donuts. The church needs revival, and it starts with us.