in 1981, Harold Kushner, a prominent Jewish scholar, wrote “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” It was a best seller, because we are both troubled and intrigued by that question.
Equally perplexing is “Why do good people sin?”
Some may initially question the thesis of this post. But both observation and experience tell us that good people do sin. The Bible emphatically states “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Today’s Bible reading relates the story of King David, identified as “a man after God’s own heart” who sinned. No, it’s not the familiar story of his sin with Bathsheba. This less familiar story occurred later and is recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 21.
David decided to number the people of Israel and Judah, specifically his soldiers. So he sent Joab, his captain, on a nine month journey. The census revealed more than 800,000 warriors in Israel and over 500,000 in Judah.
The Bible says, “the Lord was displeased” and that His “anger was aroused” against David and Israel. Why? What was wrong? And how did it happen?
1. David’s attitude was wrong.
It was not sinful to take a census, if done according to the rules of the Law. Apparently, however, based on Joab’s response, David was motivated by pride. He wanted to magnify his own accomplishments instead of glorifying God. David knew pride was sinful. He had warned against it in some of his Psalms. Yet, he caved in to this age old nemesis of mankind.
It’s a stark reminder that no matter how good and godly we are that our motives can be corrupted by pride. Preachers may become proud of their ministry. Pastors may rule from a position of pride rather than humble servant leadership. In fact, many sins may result from our pride, rather than what seems obvious to others.
A preacher who I regarded as a very humble and righteous man became entangled in an adulterous affair. I was shocked. So were his close friends. But he admitted that it was his pride that caused his downfall. He said that he let his guard down in a situation that should have raised warning signals and red flags, because he thought he was better than others. That he would never commit that sin because he was so strong and godly. He was wrong. And it happened to him according to the proverb, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
But, what happens to cause good people to be weakened by wicked desires?
(2) Satan is behind all sin.
The Bible says it was Satan who “moved David to number Israel” (1 Chron. 21:1). It reminds us that the devil is devious. Deceptive. And destructive. The Tempter can even entice good people to sin. Just ask Noah. Or Abraham. Or Isaiah. Or the apostle Peter.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, the Scripture says that the Devil entered into his heart (Jn. 13:2). When Ananias’ and Sapphira’s sin of greed, pride and lying was exposed, Peter said that Satan had filled their hearts (Ax. 5:3).
We must all be on guard against the “wiles of the devil.” He’s crafty. And will seize on any crack in our character to lead us astray.
(3) Right and Wrong is always a Choice.
It must be noted, that while the Devil tempted David, he still had a choice. And he made the wrong decision. Even good men and women, in a moment of weakness, can make a poor choice. And allow their emotions to cloud their better judgment. Right and wrong is a choice. Always.
(4) Our sins can affect other people.
David’s sin impacted the nation of Israel in a three-day pestilence that killed 70,000 people. Innocent folks, through no fault of their own, suffered and died due to David’s sinful decision.
It reminds us that sin hurts. It harms others. It brings guilt. Shame. Disgrace. And destruction. The sins of parents can cause children to suffer. The sins of husbands and wives can ruin and wreck a home that leaves scars on many other families. The sins of preachers and pastors can destroy a church.
(5) God expects us to repent of our sins.
David, to his credit, admitted, “I have sinned greatly.” At least 6 times the Scripture records David confessing his sins.
Good people who sin understand the need for confession, repentance and prayer. None of us are perfect. But we can be pardoned. If we will confess our sins, God promises to forgive us ( I Jn. 1:8-10)
This narrative ends with hope and healing. David is forgiven. And we can be too. No one is beyond the scope of God’s redemptive power.
Finally, we are again impressed that even where sin abounds, God’s grace and mercy is greater than all our sins (Rom. 5:20).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman