There are many ways in which we can give the appearance of accountability while avoiding its reality. What is the purpose of accountability, and why do people generally try to evade it?
How many of us perceive genuine accountability as being in our own best interest, regardless of the degree of inconvenience it may at times entail? The Bible tells us, in 2 Kings 5:20-27, about a man who thought he could avoid accountability.
Naaman, a Syrian army commander, had leprosy. His servant had told him that the prophet Elisha might be able to heal him. So, Naaman makes the trip to see Elisha. The prophet of God tells Naaman what to do in order to be healed, and, as unorthodox as the treatment was, it worked! Naaman is, obviously, overjoyed and offers Elisha gifts, but Elisha refuses them. But Elisha’s servant had another plan:
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. He received silver and clothing from Naaman and then proceeded to hide it. Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha.
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi asked.
But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendents forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.
Gripped by greed, Elisha’s servant Gehazi lied to Naaman the Syrian and misrepresented his master. When Elisha confronted him, he lied once again, foolishly hoping to disguise his deed from the spirit of the prophet. Elisha is not trying to trap his servant; he is trying to set him free.
Throughout Scripture, we find God seeking out sinful people and asking them questions like Elisha’s. He comes to the Garden of Eden and asks, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Jesus walks with his disciples while they argue over whom among them greatest. He asks them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” (Mark 9:33). Why does God ask these questions? God is omniscient; he is never at a loss for information.
God asks these questions to give us the opportunity to be honest.
Because of his refusal to acknowledge the true nature of his desires to Elisha, Gehazi rationalized his disobedience and failed to consider the possible consequences of his actions. Deception never leads to liberation; it leads to slavery to the sin.
Our ability to deceive ourselves is virtually boundless; that is why accountability is so necessary. Without submitting to the counsel of others, we can rationalize almost anything, especially if what we’re doing involves a series of small compromises. Thus, accountability is needed not so much to protect us from others, but to protect us from ourselves.
Those who say that they are accountable only to God fail to realize the levels and circles of human authority that God has established for our good (Hebrews 13:17). Like the centurion who told Jesus, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me” (Matthew 8:9), we must recognize our own need to be under the authority of others, while also under the authority of God.
One of the benefits of accountability is that it guards against the human condition that makes us more concerned about what others think than about what God thinks. But we need to remember that accountability is only as good as the information upon which it is based.
Accountability without full disclosure, or total honesty is a waste of time.
Lord, develop within me a character that is honest. May my first response always be to be: honestly myself before You and others. Help me to recognise small lies and non disclosure, the withholding of information that other people should know. Help me to live honestly even when no one is watching.
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