We count a lot of stuff every day, not the least of which is our bank accounts. Nothing like being held “in arrears.” Personally, I also count the gas in my gas tank (or at least look at the gauge), count the seconds on the microwave as I wait for my coffee to warm (isn’t that the reason we have microwaves?), and I count the number of times my son returns to the buffet line (wish I were young again and could eat like him).
We count in church, too. In fact, we not only count heads but we record the names of those heads, along with their addresses, birthdays, phone numbers, emails, and membership status.
Some say it’s not necessary or that we should not make a big deal about counting, especially attendance in Sunday School or worship or what have you. Even counting money should not be a devoted pastime, so they say. After all, won’t God take care of us?
Well, yes He will. But I suspect that since the good Lord gave us some Biblical precedence for accurately counting churchy things, we better pay attention.
Ezra is our man for this. In chapter 8, we read a summary of the heads of the families who returned with him from exile. With apparent painstaking effort, each leader’s name was recorded along with the count of males he led.
Furthermore, after reviewing the count, Ezra noted that someone was missing: Now I gathered them by the river that flows to Ahava, and we camped there three days. And I looked among the people and the priests and found none of the sons of Levi there. (Ezra 8:15)
That’s good enough reason for me to want to keep records of people in our church. We don’t necessarily meet down by the river and camp out for three days, but we do meet in the Worship Center or Sunday School room and camp out with the Father. We might want to be ready to tell Him who’s missing or what’s needed in the lives of families in our church. As Ezra put it, “All of them were designated by name.” (v. 20)
But chapter 8 also goes beyond just counting bodies. Verses 24-30 tell of the weighing out of silver, gold, and other expensive articles that would be given as an offering in the house of the Lord (verses 28-29). These items were exactly counted and freely given. Maybe that’s a good definition of stewardship: exactly counting and freely giving valuables to the Lord.
There’s one more thing here. The silver and gold and precious items were not entrusted to just anyone.
They were entrusted to the ones who were found missing on Ezra’s Sunday School roll (v.24).