There is a feeling that we do not really possess a thing until we have counted and measured a thing. When we buy a new object, it is not really ours until we have tested it out. If I buy a car, I want to drive it, to see how it handles, how fast it can accelerate, how well the brakes work. Undoubtedly, I looked into all this before I bought it, but I have to do it again now that I own it. When someone gives me a gift, I do not just open it, look at it, and put aside. If the situation allows, I am going to try it right then and there: it is a book, I will flip through it; if it is a sweater, I will put it on; if it is a paperweight, I will feel how heavy it is.
Such is the problem with David's action today. He is counting the fighting men of Israel, because he wants to know how many fighting men he has. The correct answer is zero. He has no fighting men, because the people of Israel do not belong to him. It may seem like a small thing he has done, asking for a census, but it is not. By daring to count the people of Israel, he is suggesting that they belong to him when actually they belong to God. God must punish him severely to make clear that Israel belongs to him alone, not David.
The people of Jesus' hometown should feel pride at seeing a hometown boy make good, but instead they are offended that he would be so wise and powerful. They do not know that he is God. Perhaps they never heard how the Angel Gabriel came to Mary. As far as they are concerned, he came to Nazareth as a young boy from Egypt. He worked as a carpenter until he was 30. Perhaps he made a shelf or a yoke that they use every day. They seem to think that they have got him all figured out, but they do not realize that there is more than they know.
No one's existence is comprised of their usefulness to us. Every single person has a dignity that cannot be summed up in a checkmark on a census or by a job or by their family. There is more to people than we know. Getting to know them as individuals is part of loving our neighbors.