Every person needs accountability. Regardless of age, experience, or other factors, and because we are fallen creatures, we must be made accountable to help us deal with the sinful impulses that continue to trouble us even after our conversions. The concept of accountability originated with God Himself. The fact that we are created beings necessarily implies that we are subject to our Creator’s authority. In His wisdom, God has established various levels of accountability so that we are never left without this much-needed benefit.

As children, we are answerable to our parents. As adults, we are accountable to a number of sources. For example, as an adult, I must answer to civil authorities for my conduct as a citizen in this society. I am also accountable to Church authority primarily for spiritual oversight. Even if we should manage to remove ourselves from liability to any civil or ecclesiastical institution, we are still ultimately and inescapably accountable to God.

In this post, I want to comment on one particular aspect of accountability, which is the situation you face when you are accused of wrong-doing and the matter automatically becomes the concern of those to whom you are accountable. For instance, as a teaching elder (minister) in a Presbyterian denomination, I labor in the local church, but my membership, and therefore my accountability, rests with the Presbytery. Consequently, in our system of government, when allegations are made against a minister (by fellow officers or church members, for example), his Presbytery is responsible for investigating the matter and rendering judgment. In order for this arrangement to function properly, it is absolutely essential that those conducting an investigation demonstrate a clear understanding of Biblical teaching covering such matters and a steadfast commitment to objectivity. This holds true for all situations in which accountability exists.

As the accused, your one true hope for justice relies on the willingness of those to whom you look for judgment to process all information from both sides in a manner that shows no partiality, one way or the other. In matters in which there are two sides in conflict, the Scripture’s warning is plain:

“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” (Pro. 18:13)

“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” (Pro. 18:17)

These verses provide the opportunity for me to explain the title of this post, The Danger of Accountability. While I may find some genuine encouragement in the concept of accountability, since it applies not only to me, but also to whoever might accuse me of wrongdoing, this arrangement can become extremely detrimental if those to whom we are accountable violate the principle found in the two verses above (as well as many other passages in the Word, of course). This is the danger of accountability. If your circumstances are not given a completely impartial analysis, you may find that your relationship of accountability actually works against you and against a just resolution.

If those in authority fail to demonstrate absolute objectivity, regardless of the nature of the charge or the “evidence” offered, then your cause is lost. In situations where one person accuses another, those with the responsibility of rendering a judgment are in a critical position. Should they allow themselves to be persuaded, even in a minor form, one way or the other, based upon the initial information they are given, the process is corrupted and, in the case of an innocent man, a great injustice is in the works. The fact is that we are rarely as careful as we should be when it comes to hearing reports about others, but when the well-being of another person is in your hands as one responsible to judge, you must maintain neutrality until both sides have been examined.

This isn’t just a matter of human fairness, it is a matter of obeying the Scriptures. Since that is the case, if the Word is not kept in a situation like the one I’ve described, then the one acting as an evaluator has transgressed in a most harmful manner. In his failure to remain objective, he has sinned against one of the parties in the dispute. And let’s not overlook the involvement of the one who presented the initial “evidence.” It’s almost a certainty that his manner of presentation was characterized by repeated assurances of his regret for having to bring the charges, his concern for the good of his “brother,” an exaggerated declaration regarding the reliability of his “proof” and the righteousness of his cause. But this is precisely the kind of situation envisioned in the verses quoted above.

God has given us unmistakable guidance because of the danger that we would be tempted to believe the first report, especially if it is presented as just depicted. Due to our fallen natures, we cannot rely on our ability to remain unaffected by a presentation. In fact, we should assume that we will be unfairly persuaded unless we are dedicated to remaining completely unbiased having been forewarned by God’s Word.