Accountability is a big topic. Do a quick google search, and you’ll find a whole lot of people are asking things like: What is personal accountability? What is the difference between responsibility and accountability? What does the Bible say about accountability? Why is personal accountability important? And searching things like: How to hold people accountable, how to hold yourself accountable, and how to be accountable to others.
But around here, our primary interest is in what the Bible has to say on any matter, so the main question we want to answer today is, what does the Bible say about accountability? We’ll learn that personal accountability is a major key to living a life of victory, so of course, we want to give practical application advice for how to hold yourself accountable.
What does the Bible Say about Accountability?
It’s hard to narrow the answer to this question down to just one verse, because there are so many facets to accountability. Of course, we’ll cover a lot of these facets and verses below, but if I had to choose one verse that kind of sums it all up, I think it would be this one from Hebrews 4:
Hebrews 4:13-16 – Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.
Whether we accept it or not, the Bible is clear that we are all accountable to God, and since nothing is hidden from Him, we will have to give an accurate account. The lies and manipulations we’re all tempted to employ in this life just won’t work when we’re standing before Him.
Since that’s true, let’s dig a little deeper to discover how to hold yourself accountable now so that when you stand before Him, you will be prepared.
What is Personal Accountability?
Before we go too much further into answering the question, “What does the Bible say about accountability,” let’s take some time to define exactly what personal accountability is and why it’s important.
To understand personal accountability, we really just have to break the word down and find some definitions. The root of the word is account, and the definition of account, in this case, is a report or description of an event or experience (Oxford).
So to be accountable for something is to be “able to give an account,” or to have the capacity to report or describe that thing. To be accountable to someone is to have the responsibility of offering an account to that person.
Most of us are accountable to someone (a boss, partner, board members, or shareholders) in our jobs, but that’s not personal accountability, that is corporate accountability.
So what is personal accountability?
Romans 14:12 – Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.
As we’ve already discovered, we are all going to have to give a personal account to God. That means, we’re going to have to answer to Him for our own lives. Not anyone else’s. That is what personal accountability is, and whether we choose to accept it or not, none of us will be able to escape it in the end.
If you want to take that seriously, you’ll learn how to hold yourself accountable to someone here. And just as no one will have to answer for you before God, no one can do it for you here either.
Accountability vs. Responsibility
Many people may think that accountability and responsibility are the same thing. In fact, many sources will even use one of these words to define the other. But in reality there is a very important difference between the two.
The word responsibility carries with it culpability or fault, while accountability simply necessitates giving an answer.
In the corporate world we can see this easily demonstrated in the relationship between boss and employee. The boss is not responsible to do the job of each employee, but is accountable for whether or not it gets done and gets done correctly.
In our personal lives too, we’re not responsible for each and every detail. Much of it is out of our control. We don’t have any say in whether or not people treat us well, how certain events play out, or a thousand other little incontrollable details. But according to the Bible, we are still accountable to God for every detail of our lives.
What does the Bible say about accountability? Well, it says we’ll have to answer to Him, not for whether or not everything went perfectly, but for how we responded. We’ll answer for what we did do even when things happened that were out of our hands.
Why is Accountability Important?
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.
I know it’s probably getting old, but it’s SO important we understand. We WILL all give an account before God. It’s not something we get to choose. But we do have the choice to make ourselves accountable to others, which simply means we put ourselves in a position to have to answer to another person or other people for the choices we make in our day-to-day lives.
So you may be asking if the Bible speaks on that issue. We may be accountable to God, but what does the Bible say about accountability to others? Why is accountability important on this side of eternity?
We’re going to get into what the Bible says about holding yourself accountable to others below, but it is important because it provides a way for us to be pro-active and intentional and take personal responsibility for our lives. It trains us in humility and honesty, which are such important character traits for anyone following Christ.
So as we seek out practical steps for how to hold yourself accountable, let’s also try to discover what the Bible says, not just about accountability to God, but also about holding yourself accountable to others.
How to Hold Yourself Accountable – 5 Easy Steps
We’ve noticed that in accountability relationships within the church people often expect to be held accountable by others. But the reality is, no one on this earth can really hold us accountable. We can lie, omit details, and manipulate information to color the way people interpret any situation. But as the verse from Hebrews at the beginning of this post pointed out, nothing is hidden from God.
This means that if we’re going to get proactive about accountability, we’re the only ones that can truly hold ourselves accountable. We have to choose to take it seriously, and do it correctly. No one else can do it for us.
So if you want to be intentional in your life, but you’re not sure how to hold yourself accountable, here are 5 easy steps you can take to get started:
1. Learn to Fear the Lord
Ecclesiastes 12:13 – That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but so many of us really don’t take seriously the fact that we ARE going to have to stand before Him one day and answer for every single thing we do.
Or, at least, we don’t take it seriously in the moment-by-moment reality of our lives. We don’t make decisions with that in mind. Why?
Most of the time, I believe it’s because we don’t have God in His right place. We don’t see Him for who He really is.
Step one in learning how to hold yourself accountable is taking VERY seriously the reality of your personal accountability to God and responding with a strong, healthy fear of the Lord. It should make us tremble to think about it, for out God is a devouring fire! (Deuteronomy 4 & Hebrews 12) I’ve already written a pretty in-depth study on how to do that, so I won’t waste our space here. If you want to know more about the fear of the Lord, click the link below.
2. Be Accountable to Others – Get an Accountability Partner:
It’s time to go back to our question above, what does the Bible say about accountability to others? We need to nail down some Bible verses that specifically address the idea of holding ourselves accountable to other believers.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
A huge part of learning how to hold yourself accountable is to be accountable to others. But be careful about how you look at this. It is still your responsibility to hold yourself accountable. Not theirs.
Scripture makes it clear that we’re stronger together. When we choose to hold ourselves accountable to others, we greatly strengthen our chance of success.
A few really easy ways to do this are to place yourself under the authority of a good local church, and to get an accountability partner.
First and most important, join a good, solid, Bible-believing church and get active within that body of believers. Get to know people, develop authentic, vulnerable relationships. Study the Bible together and just do life together. Place yourself under the authority of that body and be sure it is a church that takes that role seriously.
Then, choose an accountability partner or a small accountability group to join with you in your quest for personal accountability.
How to Choose an Accountability Partner
Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
There are some important things to look for when you’re choosing an accountability partner. Remember, this is about how to hold yourself accountable, not about finding someone who thinks its his/her job to hold you accountable or for you to hold him/her accountable.
In other words, you’re looking for someone who understand he/she can’t force you to do the right thing, and who isn’t looking for you to take responsibility for his/her choices. The goal is to make each other stronger, or as the Bible says, sharpen one another, not to take over for each other.
Look for someone who has a strong and healthy fear of the Lord, and who is committed to personal Bible study and prayer. You want someone who is in love with God and chasing after His heart as much as you want to be sure you are that person as well!
Your accountability partner also needs to be someone who is humble and gracious, but who won’t just excuse away either your sin or his/her own. You need to feel comfortable and safe being completely honest with him/her, but not so comfortable that confessing sin becomes easy. Sin should always carry appropriate weight.
Accountability partners should be quick to focus on overcoming sin, not on punishment. Doling out discipline after repentance is God’s job. Of course, they shouldn’t just look the other way while we go on living in unrepentant sin, but should follow the instructions laid out in Scripture for these situations. (Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5, and others)
But once we have repented (repentance does not just mean admitting wrong, but also turning and running the other way), the goal of an accountability partner should always be how to move forward in victory, and never about making us pay.
3. Be Honest with Yourself and Others
Psalm 32:2-5 – Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ” I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
We cannot answer the question, “what does the Bible say about accountability?” without talking about honesty. Without honesty, there is no actual personal accountability. Yet, like David in this Psalm, so many of us spend our lives refusing to confess our sin, even to ourselves!
We make excuses, we justify, we shift blame. And in so doing, we make ourselves miserable. We invite God’s heavy hand of disciple, and we groan all day long under the weight of it.
1 John 1:9 (NIV) – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
But what joy there is for those who choose to live their lives in complete honesty! For when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us, and make us righteous! But the Bible doesn’t just tell us to confess our sins to God, it also tells us to confess them to one another.
James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
What does the Bible say about accountability to others? Well, it says that when we choose to hold ourselves accountable within the body, we find great power to overcome sin and be healed. For the prayers of our brothers and sisters have great power and produce wonderful results!
How much power have we missed out on within our churches because our pride has gotten in the way of our personal accountability to one another? What would happen if we started living our lives in complete honesty before one another? If we started earnestly praying for each other as we linked arms in the battle against sin?
Oh what wonderful results there would be!
4. Make a Personal Accountability Plan
Luke 14:28-29 – But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.
There is wisdom in planning. We are wise to count the cost before we start. Learning how to hold yourself accountable is not something that comes easily to any of us. If we’re not intentional and calculated, we will fail. So make a plan!
We’ve put together a little worksheet to help you. You can download this personal accountability plan by clicking the image below.
But remember, our plans should always be made with open hands, asking God to give us wisdom and lead us in making them according to His will. He is always faithful to lead us. We just need to ask.
Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.
5. Accountability Software
There aren’t very many of us who don’t have some area of temptation when it comes to our personal electronic devices. Whether it be something as obviously serious as pornography, or the sins that trick us into believing they’re less offensive to God like misusing our time on social media, or cultivating bitterness through social media, or acting ugly online, or a hundred other issues; in this day and age internet accountability is important for all of us!
That’s why I am so thankful for companies like the ones I list below! They work hard to provide tools for us to use that will help us in our quest to hold ourselves accountable.
Of course, no tool is foolproof. If we’re looking for ways to go on sinning and living in the dark, we’ll certainly be able to find them. That’s not the point. As we’ve stated again and again, no one but God can hold us accountable. We have to choose it for ourselves.
Although, may we never forget that nothing done in the dark will ever stay hidden. God does see, and He will bring truth into the open in His time. (Luke 8:17) Why force His hand? Why not choose to simply live in the open ourselves?
1 Peter 4:4-5 – Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead.
Proverbs 28:13 – People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn, they will receive mercy.
So here is our favorite accountability software tool. I highly recommend your accountability plan include it.
Acountable2You (Our top recommendation for internet accountability tools)
Accountable2You is the software we use in our house. We love it, and find it highly effective and trustworthy. Not to mention customizable. Here are some of it’s features:
- Monitors all activity on each device on which it is installed and gives instant alerts to designated accountability partners when any content with your custom trigger words has been accessed. It even tracks calls and texts on Android devices!
- instant text alerts
- real-time reporting
- customizable trigger words
- exportable activity data
- Offers complete breakdowns of app usage and the time of day each device was used for those looking for screen time accountability.
- Offers optional location tracking in real time on devices with iOS and Android.
- Expert customer support if and when you need it is available for free with quick response times.
- Individual plans (up to 6 devices) for $6.99/month and family plans (up to 20 devices) for $11.99/month
- Group plans and small business plans also available
What does the Bible Say About Accountability? Our final thoughts:
James 4:17 – Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.