Accountable . . . to whom?
Mark G. Schroeder
Sometimes, unremarkable words seem to take on a life of their own. They are old words that, for some reason or another, become suddenly popular and are used almost to the point of exhaustion. One example of that is the word accountable.
Scandals erupt in the world of politics, and critics demand that someone be held accountable. Corporations experience a rapid decline in sales and market share, and stockholders demand that someone be held accountable for bad decisions or sloppy planning. Someone struggling with substance abuse is encouraged to find a friend or partner who can hold him accountable for his behavior.
The word accountable has found its way into the language of the church as well. Church leaders are expected to be accountable to those who have entrusted them with their positions. Those who manage the finances of a congregation or a synod are accountable for the way that they spend and keep track of money given and spent. Called workers are reminded that they are accountable to those who have called them as pastors or teachers. Some are encouraging called workers to have peers hold them accountable for spiritual and professional growth.
Accountability to other people, whether peers or supervisors, is not a bad concept. If I am accountable to someone else, it tends to keep me honest. It encourages me to be diligent. It is an incentive to strive for my best.
But there is a different kind of accountability that trumps all others. In the end, we are ultimately accountable to our Savior. Husbands and wives are to honor, love, and respect each other not just because they feel accountable to each other, but because they are accountable to the One who united them in marriage. Children are to obey and respect their father and mother not just because they are accountable to their parents, but because they know that God himself expects it of them. Workers are to be diligent and faithful in their jobs and careers not just because they are accountable to their employer or supervisor, but because they are serving their Savior in all they do. Called workers are to be faithful in their calling not just because they answer to a congregation, a circuit pastor, or a district president, but because they know that it is God himself who has called them and God himself who expects them to be faithful. God’s people strive to hold on faithfully to God’s Word and hear it often not just out of loyalty to a tradition or to a denomination, but because God himself has encouraged them to treasure the truth that he has entrusted to them.
It was this kind of ultimate faithfulness and accountability to God that the apostle Paul was thinking of when he wrote to the Corinthians, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:2-4). Paul was not denying that he was accountable to other people. But he recognized that his accountability to God was far above any other.
God has entrusted us with many things and many responsibilities—as spouses, parents, children, employees, citizens, called workers, and church members. We may be accountable to many different people in those roles. But in the end, the accountability that matters most is the one that will lead us to long to hear our Savior’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014
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