What Does the Bible Say About Accountability?
- The word "accountability" does not appear in the Bible. However, the word "accountable" is mentioned eight times in the Bible. Most of these references apply to being held accountable for not saving another person. God cares about those who are separated from Him, and He makes His children accountable for reaching out to those who are lost. If God tells you to witness to a person and you choose not to obey, then God holds you accountable for that person being separated from God (Ezekiel 3:18).
- Sometimes people who are living in a way that is contrary to God's plan need someone to warn them about the consequences of their choices. The prophet Nathan obeyed God and warned King David about God's anger with David for committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having Bathsheba's husband killed (II Samuel 12). King David could have literally "killed the messenger," but he instead repented. If Nathan had remained silent and David died in his sin, God would have held Nathan accountable for David's blood.
- The Bible says that as long as people are obedient to what God tells them to do, they are not held accountable for the outcome. The Bible explains this well in Ezekiel 33:8-9: "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself."
- God holds leaders accountable for the way that they lead God's people. In Ezekiel 34, the Bible uses the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep to explain the accountability that leaders have over God's "flock." The Bible warns in James 3:1 that "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." God holds teachers and other leaders accountable for the ways in which they lead God's people.
- Leaders and teachers are not the only ones who God holds accountable. According to the Bible, "the whole world [will be] held accountable to God" (Romans 3:19). Fortunately, God sent Jesus to fulfill the law because he knew that human beings were incapable of doing so themselves: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).