Accountability Before God

Occasionally one hears the phrase: “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Perhaps it was used in the context of career or life advice. However, many people mistake this quotation as originating in the Bible. If it had, it might not have the connotation that people associate with it. It can be construed as meaning to do your own thing, and, in light of the decay of society, you can imagine what some would suggest it means. The quotation is actually from the Shakespeare classic: Hamlet. While Shakespeare was familiar with the Bible and utilized over 2000 Bible verses in his plays and writings, this is not one of them. As true Christians, we know our charge is more accurately: “In our relationship with God, we must be true.” We are referring to accountability—accountability to and before God.

Many years ago, I worked as a civilian at a naval shipyard that we were converting into a business park. We had a company that did ship repair for the Navy. I learned some tough lessons in my years working there. Some directly involved me, and others I gleaned from observing all that was taking place around the complex. I learned that even while a ship was in dry dock undergoing refurbishment, the commanding officer was still responsible for everything that occurred on or near the ship.

My point is not to praise military service nor advocate for it, as we understand that this is against God’s law. The point is that accountability for one’s actions is serious business. To ignore this is an affront to God and against His law. There was a small fire on a ship being repaired, likely the result of a welding torch. I learned that despite the fact that the ship was in dock and had only a skeleton crew on board, the commander would be disciplined and likely face demotion or be frozen in his position for years to come. This struck me as a harsh consequence, but I came to understand that such standards were designed to instill rigor, discipline, and accountability. To set standards higher than our human nature typically seeks is why we must rely solely on God. It is His standard that we must meet.

We know that as true Christians we are subject to this high standard in our relationship with God. In Romans 14:10-13, we see that we all must give account of ourselves before God. Paul advises that we not judge one another as we face the judgement of our Creator who will consider all we have done and failed to do. Consider Paul’s words: “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

We have the words of Jesus Christ to further guide us in Matthew 12:33, referring to the fruit of the tree, that a bad tree will yield bad fruit and so the opposite is so“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” Jesus continues in Matthew 12 to point out that we are all responsible for our actions and thoughts. We see this in Matthew 12:36-37: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We are reminded by Paul, who we believe to be the author of the Book of Hebrews, that the Word of God is living and powerful; it cuts to the truth and discerns the intent of the heart.

Further on in Hebrews 4:13 we read: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

This point is reinforced for us in Jeremiah 17:9-10:“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”

Unlike the officer who paid the penalty for that fire, God offers us the opportunity to be forgiven for our transgressions when we repent. He does not demote us; He forgives when we are sincere and allows us to move forward. Repentance is therefore the corollary to accountability. We can seek forgiveness if we are sincere, repent, and we own our sins.

We are also accountable to one another. We hurt each other too easily and struggle to say we are sorry. It is more than this simple emotion. We need one another and, as true Christians, our accountability to God and to our brethren is fundamental. Paul illustrates this clearly for us in 1 Corinthians 12:20-26. Notice his words: “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

Ultimately, we will stand before God and be accountable for what we’ve done in life. It would be better if we acknowledge this each day and correct ourselves when we must. This is the standard God has established for His people and for which we will be called to account.

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