Do the Math!

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls…And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved…And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it [the church] multiplied. (Acts 2.41, 47b; 5.15; 9.31b  ESV)

Ever wonder why God changed from addition to multiplication? Let me explain it to you.

First, get a chess board. We’ll use this German mother-of-pearl beauty from the Virtual Game Museum at the University of Waterloo.

Now, get yourself a bag of rice–long grain, short grain, brown, jasmine–suit yourself. We’ve come to enjoy basmati, thanks to our dear Afghan and Persian friends, so we’ll use that. Just make sure you have a big bag. A very, very big bag. In fact, you might want to check eBay for a used train. A very, very long train.

Now, take one grain of rice out of the bag and place it on the first square of the chess board. Place two grains in the second square, four in the third, eight in the fourth, sixteen in the fifth, and so on. When you get to the twentieth square or so, fire up your locomotive.

What we’re talking about here is exponential growth: two to the 63rd power, to be exact. (One to the 64th power is still one, so for purposes of demonstration we have to start with the second square.) Do you have any idea how big a number that is? Try it on for size: 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s nine quintillion and change, a number that won’t even fit on my calculator.

To put  this  number in  perspective, let’s suppose you had this many air miles. According to my rough calculations, you could fly to the sun and back 500 million times (it’s 93 million miles away) and maybe even fit in a few day trips to the moon.

Since my calculator couldn’t handle this figure, I had to do some long division. Some very, very long division. I also looked up some geographical statistics to help you understand just how much rice you’re going to need. Based on a chess board measuring one square foot and accommodating 150 grains of rice per square, with this amount of rice you could cover 80% of my province of Ontario, Canada. And Ontario isn’t Rhode Island–it takes 24 hours to drive across it!

Are you beginning to understand why God is more interested in multiplication than addition? Are you also beginning to wonder why we–believers and churches today–are more interested in addition than multiplication?

Just think what would happen if we all devoted our lives to doing something radical–like, say, “making disciples of all nations”–and if our disciples devoted their lives to doing the same thing, and if their disciples did likewise…

Basmati rice image is from the Sanido Corporation


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