Insights on accountability

As our motives become purer—more noble, unselfish, and God-centered—we’re less inclined to say or do something offensive.

From an early age we learn that part of growing up involves being responsible for what we say and do. Society reinforces this concept through a complex structure that includes rewards and honors as well as discipline and punishment. Most people have said or done things they’ve regretted or wished they’d done differently, and oftentimes have suffered consequences such as humiliation, reprimands, or even incarceration. But even when people don’t face consequences and “get away with it,” do they really? 

The Bible reminds us: “It is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11, 12). This and other passages suggest that the world’s systems for holding people accountable are neither comprehensive nor infallible, and that although society justly expects a certain level of responsibility from everyone, our true accountability is to God, divine Love and Truth. So the questions we might often ask ourselves are: “Is what I’m thinking/saying/doing honorable and pleasing in the sight of God?” and “Am I following the teachings and example of Christ Jesus, who glorified God in all he said and did?”

God, being infinite wisdom, already knows everything, as Mary Baker Eddy affirms in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The Father in secret is unseen to the physical senses, but He knows all things and rewards according to motives, not according to speech” (p. 15). This seems to imply, then, that what’s most important is the intent of our heart.

Thinking condemnatory thoughts while professing goodness and love might deceive others and sometimes even ourselves, but this insincerity or hypocrisy never fools God or gains His blessing. On the other hand, when we seek to purify our intentions—through earnest prayer, humility, and obedience—our words and actions necessarily follow suit, much as a seed naturally sprouts and thrives when planted in the proper environment. And as our motives become purer—more noble, unselfish, and God-centered—we’re less inclined to say or do something offensive, because increasingly “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16), in which there is no place for sin—for straying from God’s direction. 

One of the benefits of having to confront sin (those instances when we stray) is that each encounter teaches us to turn from sin as we learn that it can never bring us the fulfillment it appears to promise. Only God, Love, can bring true fulfillment. Science and Health states: “The sharp experiences of belief in the supposititious life of matter, as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love. Then we begin to learn Life in divine Science” (p. 322). The better we understand our responsibility and accountability to God, the freer we become, and the more harmony, meaning, and freedom we discover in our lives.

This powerful idea—that we’re accountable to God—was an eye-opener for me. As a young man, I devoted much time and energy to appeasing others, to appearing to be good and wholesome on the outside while not always feeling—or being—that way inside. I often harbored critical views of other people but had become skilled at behaving kindly and graciously toward them. Not surprisingly, my relationships never flourished, and few people reciprocated my feigned kindness.

Soon after I began studying Christian Science, though, it became clear that what was most important was not how I was appearing to others but how God was seeing me and how I was living God’s love. As I started learning more about my spiritual identity and my accountability to God, I came to see that as His beloved child—the real identity of each of us—I was inherently good and wholesome already, and therefore didn’t need to become so or pretend to be.

Within a short time, my thoughts toward others shifted, becoming more sincere, understanding, and compassionate. New friendships sprang up, sometimes in unlikely ways; old friendships were unexpectedly rekindled; my interactions became generally more relaxed and authentic.

Living each day accountable to God opens us up to unlimited possibilities for good by bolstering our trust in Him. As Science and Health puts it: “Consecration to good does not lessen man’s dependence on God, but heightens it. Neither does consecration diminish man’s obligations to God, but shows the paramount necessity of meeting them” (p. 262). Such consecration leads us to become more patient and forthright. We find ourselves driven less by pride, ambition, or fear, and are instead led to contribute to the betterment of humanity. We learn to pray calmly and knowingly for our leaders and our fellow citizens to be guided and supported by the one divine Mind alone. And we feel the constant assurance that our fidelity to God brings stability and progress to our life and the lives of those around us.

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