So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Another calendar exhausted, a year passed, a month gone, and today’s opportunities become yesterday’s “should haves.”
We promised ourselves we would do this or that in 2001—like lose 20 pounds, attend prayer meetings on a weekly basis, or stop smoking. Who hasn’t promised to do more by way of an exercise program? The new year came and, for many, the changes didn’t happen. Now it’s another year.
New Year’s resolutions are promises to ourselves. They are commitments to do, not to do, to be, or not to be. Because we make these promises to ourselves we are most agreeable in negotiating the terms and being “flexible” so that we don’t exactly break those promises to ourselves. How can we consider the promise broken if the person we made the promise to merely looks the other way or changes the subject or encourages us that we will do better “next time”? Did we break a promise if we have no one to answer to but ourselves, and we are willing to be lenient?
Perhaps the most difficult thing to establish and maintain in the lives of individual Christians and in the lives of Christian organizations is accountability. By nature we humans seek empowerment or authority, and we are willing to accept a great degree of responsibility, provided that there is not too high a degree of accountability.
By nature, we don’t like to take note of how we are spending ourselves. Most of us desire achievements. We want to accomplish something with our lives. We might even enjoy telling of our accomplishments, but many times we don’t like being called into account for what we failed to accomplish. We really don’t like allowing ourselves to be confronted with those questions that might cause us to admit we did not measure up to our principles or keep our commitments.
To remedy our negligence, we need to invite friends and fellow Christians to call us into account and encourage us to do right. We need to make ourselves accountable to our fellow believers who are our peers, our spiritual leaders and our employers.
As a former executive director of Jews for Jesus, I don’t think that any one thing gave me as much trouble as maintaining the balance of accountability. That is to say, balancing authority with responsibility and accountability. There was a constant pressure on me not to make people accountable for what had been entrusted to them.
Sometimes I was more tactful and thoughtful than other times, but no matter how polite, no matter how urgent the need, calling people into account was always unpleasant for me and for the person accountable. Of course it was necessary and God was gracious in giving good staff, most of whom were diligent.
We are new creations, but the world, the flesh and the devil still pull at us, still entice us, and certainly encourage us to avoid responsibility and accountability.
When we try to ask questions to hold ourselves or others accountable, the answer from the world, the flesh and the devil (often said in unison) is: “That is none of your business.” But when we stand before the Lord and He raises the question of our stewardship over our time and energy, which of us can say to the Giver of Life that our life is none of His business?
God did not give us life on our own terms. We can and should take time for rest and refreshment—but we must see what the Lord requires of us and be about our Father’s business, not only in what we achieve, but also in how we think and behave and prioritize our lives.
We know we are saved by grace and not by works lest anyone should boast. But while our salvation does not depend on how we spend our lives, God will still hold us accountable. We can be as “flexible” with ourselves as we want, and hold those who may ask hard questions at arm’s length if we choose. But if we allow ourselves to be held accountable now, maybe we will have less to answer for on the day when we must all answer to God.