The Numbers Game…

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s that time of the year. The budget for the next financial year is being finalised, marking is getting done and I’m monitoring student enrolments for semester 2. My life for the last few weeks has revolved around numbers.

Astonishing how a small number can make a large difference. An extra zero added at the end of a donation and the year’s budget can be met! In my role as moderator I have to visit the scripts of all borderline students. A decision to add a mark or shave a few off makes the difference between euphoria and despair. In fairness to students I try to remember to moderate on my good mood days!

Those who like to get spiritual about numbers can take one of two tacks (I wonder if those numbers are right? Perhaps there is a third, or even a fourth).

The first is to say that numbers don’t matter. Who cares if 5 or 5000 attend the church service, what counts (very punny) is the quality of the God encounter that results. And fair enough. Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep (leave 99 for the 1) adds fuel to this view, while the healing of demon possessed Legion is even more telling. Mark 5 tells us that around 2000 pigs flew that day, but the sense of the passage is that a few extra zeros here or there would have led to the same action on the part of Jesus. Clearly Legion rated higher than the financial investment of the local pig farmers.

If you’re still not convinced, consider Jesus’ appalling grasp of economics. He evaluated the few cents donated by a poverty stricken widow to be more valuable than the large sums donated by the wealthy. No wonder he had to perform a miracle to pay his taxes! Sufficient for the day was Jesus’ guideline. In the end he had only the robe he wore to leave behind… Or was that all he left? Depends on the currency you consider valuable.

Compelling though that argument is, there are times when numbers clearly matter. Try Psalm 90:12 “Teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” Of course that’s easier said than done. How are we supposed to know how many days remain on the calendar? Earlier the psalmist recognised the dilemma when he acknowledged that “Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty” (10). Not that the crucial number is completely unknown. Again it is the Psalmist who reminds us that all the days ordained for us are written in God’s book (139:16). So while God knows, we live with uncertainty. Somewhere in the juggle with that unknown we gain a heart of wisdom.

So which are the numbers to sweat over? It’s always about what you think counts. And then of course you’ve got to ask, counts for how long? But that’s another topic.

So are there some numbers you worry over. Which are they, and why? And are they the numbers that matter for the next six months, or the numbers that matter for eternity.

Nice chatting…

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