Accountability – The Check on Power


One of the great elements of healthy and growing disciples of Jesus Christ is that they place themselves in relationships with other Christians who hold them accountable. John Wesley saw a great need as he preached throughout England in the 18th Century. Many professed faith in Jesus Christ as a result of his preaching yet quickly fell away from the faith after he moved on to the next town.

Wesley realized that he was just spiritually awakening people who quickly fell back to sleep. He devised what he called a class meeting, a group of 12 believers who would meet weekly to hold one another accountable and help one another move forward spiritually. The leader was to ask how their soul was doing, and to advise, reprove, comfort and exhort. The solution to spiritual growth was mutual accountability and obedience to the will of God. They would ask one another questions such as “Have you given time for the Bible to speak to you every day? Are you enjoying prayer? When did you last speak with someone about your faith? Do you pray about the money you spend? Do you insist upon doing something about which your conscience is uneasy”? These are good questions for us and the pattern of mutual accountability is valuable. In fact, when we look into God’s Word we find that mutual accountability is not only exhorted to us for our spiritual growth but for all areas of life.

One of the oxymorons of our day is an institution down in the District of Columbia known as The Government Accountability Office. It claims that its Mission “is to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people.” If it weren’t so tragic, we could have a good laugh at it.

Most Americans are well aware that our civil government is anything but accountable to “We the People” who hired them. It appears more and more that it does not exist for the benefit of the American people but for its own selfish benefit. It seems that the ballot box is a poor means of accountability, as the past three decades amply demonstrate.

What has gone wrong? Well, the Word of God gives us the answer. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All men are sinners and, therefore, cannot be trusted with power; and even if they are redeemed, regenerated, and sanctified, it is unwise to trust them with power that is not very carefully and securely circumscribed and sharply limited. The problem is how do we entrust power to anyone and yet keep them acceptable for the use of that power. Furthermore, as we shall see in Exodus 18, the most powerful design of a civil government which is bound down by checks and balances comes from a four level structure that is given to us in Gods’ Word.

Please read Exodus 18:31-19. Here, Moses was given advice for a four level structure of government that has stood the test of time and was the pattern used by the Founders in the construction of the original plan for the civil government in America. We see that Jethro criticizes Moses (not for the fact that he brings the causes of the people before God, which by the way is the criticism leveled against anyone today who believes that God’s Law is supreme and therefore is the standard against which any and every man made legislation is to be measured). Jethro fully approved of Moses bringing the causes of the people before God, but he saw that Moses was attempting the impossible as Moses being the only one to conduct the judging meant that for very many individuals justice would be delayed. The proof was that long line outside Moses’ tent.

We find the solution to end the delay when we continue reading at Exodus 18:20-27. Specifically we learn that “Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.”

Here we learn of a horizontal division of power—four levels of civil government (1000s (federal), 100s (state), 50s (county), and 10s (town/local). Moses was to train up godly men who knew God’s Law and ordinances to fill those offices. Furthermore, they were to know the way they must walk and the work they must do. In other words their life must demonstrate godliness not just their work of judging. Do we have that in our judges and elected officials today?

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