A person is accountable when they are required or expected to justify their actions or decisions; they are responsible, liable, answerable.
Schools give account to parents for how they educate. Teachers and administration must be able to justify their decisions. Banks give account to their investors. They are liable to protect the money entrusted to them. Employees give account to their employer. What they do is a reflection on their boss and the organization. Players give account to their coach and to their fellow teammates. What an individual does impacts the larger group.
Spiritual accountability is another way to say that there are certain expectations (namely to walk worthy of the gospel and worthy of the Lord) in the Christian life. Therefore we are required to give an account, to answer for our decisions and our actions. The final account is before God Himself and in the meantime He has provided a check-and-balance system in the church to keep the individual members safe as well as cause them to grow stronger.
That seems helpful. So why would anyone hate accountability? I think it is more than that accountability is sometimes hypocritical or judgmental. I think we react negatively toward accountability because we’re born with a built-in repellent to it.
Three Reasons We Naturally Hate Accountability
I tried to make the outline personal, because this is personal. That’s the point. If it wasn’t personal it wouldn’t bother us so much. Of course, if it wasn’t personal, it wouldn’t do us any good. That’s the trouble. And I don’t think hate is too strong. Accountability is a nuisance, a bother, and a headache. We cross to the other side of the street when we see it coming. Why?
1. We are naturally self-centered.
Thinking about ourselves first is inborn. No one has to teach us that. Love of ourselves is in our genes (2 Timothy 3:2). In being so consumed with ourselves we’re not built to appreciate outsiders. We’re not wired to ask someone else to troubleshoot our system or encourage them to help keep us in line.
So we do everything we can to avoid accountability even though there are great dangers in isolation. Solomon said that the person who isolates himself rages against all sound wisdom (Proverbs 18:1). And in the body of Christ we cannot get away from the other members without harming the body. The body is no place for selfish members.
We live in a day that magnifies the individual. We like community as long as the community doesn’t have any expectations, and we certainly don’t value a confronting community. Because we are naturally self-centered we naturally hate accountability.
2. We are naturally proud.
It is not only natural to think about ourselves, but to think highly about ourselves. Pride is characteristic of every person, regardless of whether it is displayed externally or just thought internally. Pride originates in the natural heart (Mark 7:21-23) and defiles a man.
Proud people don’t like authority, they are their own authority. Proud people don’t like to be told they are wrong, they know they aren’t. Proud people don’t like to stand at the receiving end of discipline and correction, they just like to give it.
We live in an era that magnifies self. Humility is a virtue we esteem in others. Because we are naturally proud we naturally hate accountability.
3. We are naturally worldly.
Love of self is not the only inherent thing in humans, love of the world is also innate.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
In a sense, we are more at home walking in a manner worthy of the course of this world rather than walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. Sinners follow Satan and live in the passions of their flesh. Our nature was once like the rest of mankind, pursuing the present world. Love of the world and the things in the world causes compromise and settling for less than gospel-worthy living.
What this really means is that we don’t value holiness. We are not very concerned with being pure, blameless, spotless, or righteous. It isn’t easy to pursue sanctification and separation from the culture. It is easy to be satisfied with conformity to this world. The mold of the world is comfortable and we dislike the discomfort that comes when the mold is confronted.
We live in a time that magnifies fitting in. We don’t value standing out. And because we naturally fit better with the world we are naturally opposed to those who hold us accountable to live other-worldly.
So disliking, disdaining, detesting, disapproving, and despising accountability is natural. Even for those of us who have been born again, who are not natural but spiritual, we still fight against these tendencies toward self-centeredness, pride, and worldliness. We need each other’s help to do so. Accountability is one ingredient in God’s saint-making recipe.