“And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him,“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7)
It is a painful and humbling experience to suddenly be made aware of your own sin, especially if you have been blind to it for an extended period of time. That is what happened to David here as Nathan’s story was a metaphor designed to confront David about his sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah. I too recently had an experience of being made aware of my sin. Earlier this year, a longstanding friendship fell apart and ended. It is a painful and sad thing to lose a friendship, but I at least had as my consolation that I thought I was guilty of no wrongdoing in what caused it to end.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As I was laying in bed early one morning thinking about what happened, it’s as if the blinders over my eyes fell off and I could finally see clearly now. I realized that it was actually my fault the friendship ended and that it was my repeated sinful behavior that did it.
What was this terrible sinful behavior that brought about so much destruction? It’s one word:
I ended up repeatedly putting my wants ahead of my friend’s needs. However, it happened through something very subtle and very difficult to detect: expectations. See all of us come to all of our relationships (dating relationships, friendships, parent-child, etc) with certain desires for them. We have desires about how they’ll play out, what the dynamics of it will look like, how frequently we’ll interact, etc so forth. Desires aren’t evil, they’re just part of being human. However, where it gets problematic is when those desires get transitioned into expectations.
Pastor Andy Stanley wisely points out that as soon as a desire transitions into an expectation, it immediately changes the dynamic of the relationship into a debt-debtor relationship. In other words, another way to express an expectation is to say “you owe me”. Think about it, when you pay your mortgage each month do you get a personalized thank you letter from the bank extolling you for your good virtue and kindness on making this payment? Nope. That’s because paying your mortgage is what is expected of you because you owe them all that money you borrowed.
Let me give you an example of how this plays out relationally. Suppose I have a friend at work whom I desire to say “hi” to me when he walks by my desk in the morning. If I just desire this, then if he does it I will feel grateful and consider it an act of kindness because I didn’t expect it. If he doesn’t do it, I’m not bothered or upset because I wasn’t expecting him to anyway. However, if I expect him to do it, then now if he doesn’t do it I might be mad or upset with him about it since this was what was expected. See as soon as that desire gets transitioned to an expectation, the relationship gets turned into a debt-debtor relationship because essentially what I’m saying is “you owe me a “hi”every morning”.
And when living from a place of expectation guess who all those expectations serve? They all serve me. In the above example, the expectation is how I wanted him to say “hi”, how I was owed something and how I didn’t get what I wanted. At it’s core, it’s selfishness.
Now some of us have gotten very good about not responding in anger when our expectations are not met. However, what we often do instead is just bring up the expectation again, and again, and again – sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly. When we do that guess who it’s still about? It’s still all about me and what I want. What we’re really doing here is sending the other person a reminder saying “Hey, you still owe me this”. The end result of this is that it creates pressure. John Eldredge wisely points out that pressure kills everything it touches. No matter how strong something is, given enough pressure, it will eventually be crushed.
This is what happened in my situation, I let one of my desires (which was not a bad desire) get turned into an expectation. Then, I advocated for that expectation again and again and again until eventually the friendship got crushed under the pressure of that expectation. Did I ever stop to think about what my friend really needed and if my expectation was really in line with that? No, because once that desire became an expectation, I thought I was owed that – it’s just what a friend is required to do. And guess who that expectation is about?
It’s. All. About. Me.
In other words, it’s pure, sinful, selfishness.
Sin comes at a high cost because it brings death (“For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23). In David’s life, the cost of his sin was great as it brought death to so many areas of his life; death to his reputation as it was made publicly known that he had committed adultery and murder, death to the child he had with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:14), and perhaps worst of all, it brought death to David’s family life as Nathan said that due to his sin, calamity will come upon him out of his own household (2 Samuel 12:11). His own sons would be the source of this calamity as his son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13) and his son Absalom kills his half brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:29), leads a rebellion against David to overthrow him as king (2 Samuel 15) and sleeps with David’s concubines in public view of all Israel (2 Samuel 16:22).
Maybe you’re not experiencing anything extreme as what happened with David, but you still find your sin bringing death in your life. Maybe your sin is gluttony and the cost that comes with it is that each additional bite brings death to your body as your health continues to decline. Maybe your sin is lying. You find yourself wanting to control situations and people’s perceptions so badly that you keep lying to do it. All the while the cost of that sin is great because it brings death to the value of your words as people have learned not to trust what you say. Maybe your sin is pride. You think you’re better than other people because you don’t do the sins you see them doing. However, this sin comes at an incredibly high cost because it brings death to your ability to have any love, mercy, grace or compassion for others.
The cost to me was tremendous as well. I lost a close and trusted friend whom I’d had a robust relationship with for more than three years. The friendship died, and my sin of selfishness was what killed it.
Paul says in Colossians 3:5 to put to death whatever belongs to your sinful nature. There is tremendous wisdom in this as I think what Paul is getting at is to kill sin before it kills you.
The bottom line is that you have a choice, either you can die to your sin or watch as your sin brings death to every area of your life it touches. Either way, something is going to die.