I recently scanned a subjective list of the “50 Greatest Living Geniuses”—people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and others who were/are “geniuses” in various fields, including the arts, sciences, sports and so on. I wondered if geniuses ever think, “Boy, that guy is really stupid!”
I imagined a shirt something like the one on the left, but worn by inventor Thomas Edison. His shirt might say, “I’m with Stupid,” but the arrows would point left and right! And then I found this Einstein t-shirt on the right at Amazon! LOL!
I thought I was stupid for most of my life, even though I got good grades. It all goes back to a third grade teacher who made it her mission to humiliate me in front of the class. (Her actions would be called child abuse today.)
Nobody wants to be called stupid. But we frail, fleshly humans are really closer than we realize to doing something stupid! Sometimes I wish I had a “stupid meter” that would warn me when I’m about ready to do something I’ll regret later.
I’ve been writing a book lately about the importance and blessing of Christian friendships. It was easy writing about the positive aspects to friendship . . . like encouragement, praying together and helping each other. But there’s another aspect that doesn’t feel so positive. In the book, I’m calling it a “Learning” friend. But it’s really Accountability.
It’s important. It’s necessary. It’s biblical!
When Alvin Reid, in an article on Church Planting,* wrote about the vital importance of accountability in church networks, he said,
“Left to ourselves we are all two steps from stupid. We need each other.”
Christians, in particular, need to understand this. Christians are interconnected in the community of the Body of Christ and the Bible presents accountability as our duty to each other. Part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ is building each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Accountability has two sides. One is encouraging: “Spur one another on in love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). The other is challenging: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1). That restoration presupposes sin being exposed. But it might not even be an overt sin. It might be something left undone, or something we can’t see ourselves but it’s obvious to others. It might be as simple as challenging us to keep our own commitments!
When we are accountable to someone, we humbly choose to be responsible for our actions. People who refuse accountability are often proud. They think they can do as they please without answering to anyone. They unwittingly set themselves up for Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8). We’ve got to drop our pride, because so often it takes a caring accountability partner (which I’ll call an “AP”) to see our blind spots.
As a teen, I embraced Jiminy Cricket’s advice: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” But as a maturing adult, I realized my conscience might not always be the wisest adviser! I need a Holy Spirit-controlled conscience.
(By the way, I mentioned earlier wanting a “stupid meter.” I’ve learned my most trustworthy “stupid meter” is the Spirit of God who uses the Word of God to alert me to foolishness. I can know the truth. I can know God’s will for me on earth. And I know I need the Spirit of God to help me make the wisest choice too.)
But as Reid said, “We need each other” . . . meaning we in the Body of Christ. We need flesh-and-blood “APs” (and mentors) who will walk alongside us—sometimes telling us a truth we’ve forgotten . . . and sometimes a truth we don’t want to hear.
Two scriptures highlight this beauty of accountability.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)
The writer of Proverbs says we are meant to “sharpen” each other as we live the Christian life. This is true because we may not realize where we’ve become “dull.”
Dull = Compromising. . . Hypocritical. . . Lazy. . . Indulgent. . . Sinful.
Caring, challenging support might be just the thing we need to fight against the enemy. And our godly “advisers” can help us walk in line with God’s Word when the world encourages us to tread a crooked road.
Accountability partners challenge us to live in truth—to practice what we preach to others. They also help us make wise choices. A good “AP” has our back, keeping us from doing (or continuing in) something stupid.
We see examples of accountability throughout the scriptures. One of the strongest examples in the Old Testament was the prophet Nathan, coming to King David, to confront him over sin (2 Samuel 12:1-13). Nathan used a powerful story to first capture David’s heart, then ZING! And David got the point.
In the New Testament, Paul challenged Peter for hypocrisy—for being a two-faced believer (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul also (acting something like an accountability partner for a whole congregation) confronted the Corinthian Church over complacency in dealing with members’ immoral behavior (1 Cor. 5:1-13). His words reflected his heart of loving concern for the Body of Christ.
I discovered a few things in relating to my own “APs” over the years:
- A good accountability partner loves you too much to allow you to get away with being sincere and serving . . . while willfully sinning.
- A good accountability partner won’t allow you to “keep the rules” while maintaining a heart far from God.
- An accountability partner should want you, above all, to become more like Jesus.
- Accountability should include intentional, specific, regular plans to meet and encourage each other . . . a time, a place, a purpose.
- Times of accountability should involve prayer, challenging questions, practical encouragement and, when appropriate, loving nudges to confess sin (James 5:16).
Every Christian, whether a new believer in the pew or the most seasoned pastor, needs an Accountability Partner. We all need someone to pray with, confide in and be honest about our struggles with sin. After all, we’re only two steps from stupid, right?
Do you have an accountability partner? If not, will you pray and ask God to show you a wise, godly person to approach about this vital issue?
* Alvin Reid, “Networks Work, Especially for Church Planting,” 2-16-15