Counting is an obsessive thing. Misers count their money. Britain desperately wanted the accounting to show that it is out of recession. Jersey’s Treasury Minister would love to see a balanced budget, to find that the total count of pounds received equalled (or exceeded) the total count of pounds spend. The latter is short, this year, of over £60,000,000. Count we must – or go under.
When we count wealth we count it in money equivalent. That’s OK, perhaps, for the value of a tangible thing – a house, an old master, a gold ingot. Or is it? That tangible thing is only worth that if someone still wants to buy it tomorrow at that price.
But what about intangibles? A bank statement states that the bank owes its customer £10,000. Do you believe it?
A Jersey business owner send his bills using Sage or Quick Books; he clicks on ‘Balance Sheet’ and sees that all customers owe the business £50,000. Is that to be believed?
Yes, of course it is to be believed. This is accountancy. Ok, it’s true that the bank might fail. It’s more likely that someone won’t settle a bill that is due.
But the key issue is that everyone trusts the accountancy, trusts the intangibles that they cannot see or touch, trusts them (amazingly, really) even when the record they are viewing that records the intangible money is, itself, intangible – like a fleeting image on a computer screen that constitutes internet banking. How very trusting.....
The words in bold above – about accountancy and intangibles - were written about fifteen years after Jesus of Nazareth died and rose from the dead. The Greek word that the writer (Paul, a member of the Pharisee political/religious party and a Roman citizen) used twice is logizomai. It was in ordinary commercial use in Jesus’ day and, among other things, described the process of accounting for goods sold and services rendered.
What, then, is Paul driving at in bringing accountancy to bear in his letter to folk in Rome a few years after Jesus died?
Well, first a bit about the David referred to above. He was King of Israel between 1010 and 970 BC. One springtime he was on his palace roof in Jerusalem and spotted an attractive lady in a nearby house. He didn’t stop watching her. He sent an invitation. She became pregnant. Her husband was a brave soldier but, even when recalled from the front so he could “become” the unwitting father, he didn’t do so out of loyalty to his comrades at the front.
So King David arranged for him to be put into the front of the front line.... Problem solved. David marries this loyal soldier’s widow.
This King is an unrighteous man.
How can God ever count him as having righteousness? Surely he’s going to have to do one huge lot of good works to counter-balance adultery and murder. Actually, (see above) no. God counts righteousness to David “apart from works.”
As Paul rightly tells the Roman folk around AD 57, David himself writes, during his lifetime around BC 1000, of the absolutely stupendous blessedness of those “whose lawless deeds are forgiven” and “whose sins are covered” and, amazing this, “against whom the LORD will not count his sin.” Just like a Jersey business refusing point blank to send a bill.
Who can have this “blessedness”? It doesn’t apply to everyone, does it? No, it doesn’t. Only to some, as Paul explains in his letter.