I was watching a promotional video for a leadership conference taking place in Atlanta later this year, and one sound bite from one of the speakers was something that you frequently hear from many a pulpit on any given Sunday: “At the end of your life, you will give an account…”
I personally can’t think of a more horrifying thought.
This is often used in conjunction with the equally terrifying phrase, “God looks at the heart.” I really don’t want God looking at my heart. It’s dark in there.
Most of us, if ever called to describe ourselves think, “I’m a good person, I don’t insert evil act here or insert heinous thought here”. But the truth is, we are evil. At our core, we are dark miserable sinners in need of a perfect Saviour.
God Demands Perfect Obedience
It’s not easy to think about, but God is holy and He demands perfect obedience… one little slip up and it’s over. You’re done. You can’t make it right.
And to make things worse, according to Jesus, if we even think something evil we are guilty of commiting the sin, whether we actually do it or not.
This is bad… really bad. I can’t make it through an hour without thinking something sinful whether it’s thoughts of rage, neglect, violence, lust… it’s exhausting. I can’t do it.
A friend of mine was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. There were many guests from varying Christian traditions, and soon conversation turned to the topic of salvation and good works. Are good works necessary for salvation? One dinner guest was adamant that good works were necessary for maintaining salvation, to which my friend concluded, “Welp… hope I don’t die on a bad day.”
I love that story, but I only bring it up now to point out that last line: if we have to give an account at the end of our life, what if we die on a bad day? What could you possibly have ever done to make up for some of the really bad days in your life? Our own righteousness is as filthy rags before God, so what would an account of our life mean?
Is Giving an Account of our Life Biblical?
I’m not denying that we will have to give an account for our life. Romans 14:12 makes it clear that we will, but what chapter 14 is also trying to make clear is we’re all in an equal amount of trouble. Don’t judge your brother for what he does or doesn’t do because you’re in as much trouble as he is.
So what of the account we’ll have to give? If you or I try to stand on our own righteousness as we give an account to God for our life, we will be found wanting. Martin Luther said, the saint and the sinner approach God shoulder to shoulder. The only difference for saints is our sins have been placed on Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us. Clothed in Christ, let us stand, weak and trembling, with St. Paul and make our account be: I know nothing but Christ, and him crucified.
Why be concerned with good works at all then? Why be concerned with our talents? God doesn’t need our good works… our neighbor does. Christ died for you when you were dead in your trespasses and sins, and you needed a saviour. Now go and feed your neighbor because he is hungry; clothe him because he is naked; care for him because he is orphaned or widowed.
And be sure to go to church as often as you can (at least once a week) to receive Jesus in His Word and Sacrament for the forgiveness of your sins, and rest on the cross of Christ rather than your personal account to God for your life.