by J. Randal Matheny, editor
For individuals and entire societies, fault and blame have become outdated concepts. Genetics has replaced the devil as the latest made-me-do-it. Accountability has fallen by the wayside as a basic principle for government, society, personal behavior and religion.
To be accountable means to have to answer for one’s thoughts, words and acts and suffer the consequences, for good or evil.
Accountability is a truth derived from the nature of God as all-knowing judge. “And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Hebrews 4:13 NET).
In Hebrews 4:13, the “account” we must render is literally a “word,” and this term occurs at the end of the verse. Near the beginning of verse 12 is mentioned the “word of God.” In these two verses, then, we have the word of God and the word of man framing the passage. Our “word” or account of our actions will either demonstrate or deny our faithfulness and obedience to the word of God. (See verse 11).
Accountability dispenses with excuses and justifications. Instead of blaming others or God himself (Genesis 3:12, 13), one assumes responsibility to say, like David, “I have sinned” (2 Samuel 12:13).
Accountability means that each individual must answer for himself. “Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). No one suffers for the sins of another, nor can anyone transfer credit to another. “The person who sins is the one who will die. A son will not suffer for his father’s iniquity, and a father will not suffer for his son’s iniquity; the righteous person will be judged according to his righteousness, and the wicked person according to his wickedness” (Ezequiel 18:20).
The grace of God displayed in the cross, which saves us from the condemnation we deserve, still does not absolve one from accountability. The Old Testament principle of accountability appears at every turn in the New. In fact, Paul quotes the Old Testament when he affirms that God “will reward each one according to his works” (Romans 2:6).
Rather, one might say that under the new covenant the principle of accountability is greater. “Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3a).
At the heart of attempts to avoid accountability is the tendency to see God as if he were a human being. Parents often do not hold their children accountable, but make excuses for them. Any nation’s justice system, to greater or lesser degree, fails to make people answer for their actions. Man thinks, therefore, that somehow God didn’t really mean what he said in his word about judgment. They forget the inexorable principle of reaping what one sows (Galatians 6:7-9), a metaphor for having to account for one’s life.
The final reckoning will occur at the second coming of Christ. “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27). Then, complete justice will be meted out, and everyone will receive exactly what he deserves. Those who obey Christ will receive God’s grace for eternal salvation; those who do not know him “will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
The truth of accountability, therefore, provides strong motivation to do the will of God, since we “will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).
by J. Randal Matheny, editor