It is fitting that this Gospel Word should come from a preacher (Ecc. 1:1). He says, “What is lacking cannot be counted” (Ecc. 1:15). Take it from one who has spent a ministry counting what was lacking: it is fruitless, painful, and unfaithful.It works like this. You don’t regard the handful of people you have at a Bible class, i.e. you don’t count them. O no, you count all the people who are not there. You don’t count the people in Divine Service; you count the number not there. You wives of pastors know this insanity well. Your husband looks right past the grateful sheep feeding on his ministry and focuses on the goats, old or not, who gruffly ignore it. When he does this call him Haman.
Haman is the man who started the pogrom against the Jews during the time of Esther. His star was ascending in the king’s palace. He had prestige, power, and wealth. The one thing he did not have was the respect and reverence of Mordecai.
We read in Esther 5: 9-13, “Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai. Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman also said, ‘Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king.’ Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”
When we count what is not there, when it ruins our day, (And how many pastors have ruined the rest of their family’s Sunday by counting as something that which was nothing?) we are being as childish, as churlish, as middle school girlish as Haman. So much grace, so much glory, so much privilege is ours as stewards of the ministries of God, and it amounts to so much rubbish because this one, that one, or these folks were not there or so few were there compared to the many who weren’t.
I have one caveat, one excuse for Hamanish husbands. It’s called Synod bureaucrats. They have taught your husband to do what the Preacher says can’t be done. They have taught him to count what is lacking. At least annually, they tell him that the average church only confirms one adult. Rather than focusing on that one found, lost sheep that the angels in heaven rejoice over, they focus him on the 99 he didn’t find, indeed couldn’t find because they weren’t “lost.”
However, don’t let him off. You may sympathize but don’t wallow with your Haman. Do like Haman’s wife; tell him to build a gallows. Not to hang the Mordecais who are not there; you can’t hang what is lacking anymore than you can count it. No, the gallows is for him. He is the one who needs to die. And you don’t need for him to build a gallows to die on. Just push him back into his Baptism. There his old adam will drown with all sins, evil desires, and the insanity of counting what is lacking.
There is probably some higher math (Anything above Algebra II would be higher for me.) that allows you to count what is not there, assign value to what is not present, count zero as 1, but it is theological insanity, and we who do it should be treated like Haman is in the Jewish feast of Purim. When his name is mentioned, people hiss, boo, and heckle.
When your husband comes home with that dower, defeated, depressed look for all that was not, for all who were not, hiss, boo, and heckle him for most truly that is not the man you married. That is not the man who came out of the font. That is certainly not the man who just celebrated Communion with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.