Accounting 101


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Leviticus 23:23-44, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18, Matthew 7:13-21

Near the end of his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul addressed the complaint that some believers were not doing their fair share, but were idle busybodies: “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” He reminded the church of his earlier lesson: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Remember that the early church lived in close community, pooling their resources and distributing them according to need. Any resources that went to support the idle among them could not be put to better use by helping the poor.

When we commit ourselves to Christ, we can’t just say we believe the right things and think our responsibility ends there.

We are responsible to the greater body, which is in turn responsible to Christ’s mission. If we grow lax, are we willing to be subject to Paul’s additional advice that other believers avoid us until we step it up? It sounds harsh, and is not a very politically correct sentiment, but sometimes consequences are necessary to drive change. Note that Paul does not say to force idlers from the community or to regard them as enemies, but to “warn them as believers.” A community depends on everyone doing their part.

It is important to remember that not all of us will be able to contribute equally in all ways, but all of our contributions should be equally valued for what they are. Just as it is in the workplace,  a call to accountability is not a punishment but a statement of trust. The flip side of this social contract is our willingness to be sensitive to what people can and can not do, and what resources they do or do not have. Would it make sense to ask the accountant to fix the furnace, or the facilities manager to keep the books? No, and we’d be setting them up to fail.  That sensitivity also applies to considering someone’s “fair share;” demanding what others can’t supply, or resenting them for not supplying it, does not serve Christ, only our own egos.

Do what you should. Lovingly hold accountable those who do not. Accept corrections as appropriate. These practices help build a health body that will bear healthy fruit.

Comfort: It’s OK – even desirable – to hold others accountable.

Challenge: It’s OK for others to hold you accountable.

Prayer: God of justice, teach me to do my fair share, to help others do theirs, to appreciate the gifts of others, and to honor their limitations. Amen.

Discussion: How do you determine whether someone is doing their fair share? Does that mean they must be doing an equal share?

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