The ACCOUNTING MENTALITY
One great hidden hindrance to growth is what we could call an accountant mentality.
With apologies to all acceptable accountancy professions (that have, of course, a proper place to bring order and
access to resources and disbursements), there is an incipient attitude attached to this often dull but always
dangerous task that may develop disaster in any growing work.
It is the subtle snare that ruins greatness.
It can invisibly sow seeds of decay and disintegration
in a flourishing life, business, church or a nation.
It always shadows the successful and secure.
And it can slowly but surely lead to utter disaster.
Ask. Ask Enron. Ask anyone.
What is an Accountant Mentality?
It is David “numbering the people”.1
It is Solomon multiplying wives, horses and gold to himself.2
It is the key difference between big Temple gifts and the widows’ last mite.3
It is the Rich Fool counting his possessions
and not knowing of another far more important Accounting coming for him that night.4
It is the man, who having set his hand to the plow,
begins “looking back” and disqualifies himself from the Kingdom.5
It is a critical voice in the background of abandoned weeping beauty
that counts the wrong cost & only asks “Why this waste?” 6
It is the job justified as necessary by the Judas who betrayed Jesus
and sold out his Savior to enemies for thirty dirty pieces of silver.7
It is counting your assets as self-gained and deserved and forgetting the first Giver.
It is a focus on what you have and dishonoring it by doing with it as you please.
It is a covetousness of spirit that begins to hoard for self-gain what was given for a greater purpose.
It does despite to the Spirit of grace, dishonors the Lord and divides His Church.
Summary: ACCOUNTING MENTALITY
Concentration on collection and categorization in order to protect personal command and control.
It is the same sin that brought a most terrible warning from heaven to the chosen people:
(2 Samuel 18:1, 24:10; I Chronicles 21:17)
(Deut 17:16 -17; IK 11:4,9)
(Matthew 26:15; John 12:5-6)
“Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I
command you this day: Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when your herds
and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;
Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of
bondage; Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where
there was no water; Who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your
fathers knew not, that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end; And you say in your heart,
“My power and the might of mine hand has gotten me this wealth”.
But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth that he may establish his covenant which
he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if you do at all forget the LORD your God, and walk after other gods, and
serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. (Deut. 8:11-19)
And again, see the warning against self-congratulation on the eve of conquest:
“Do not speak in your heart, after that the LORD your God has cast them out from before you, saying, “For my righteousness the
LORD has brought me in to possess this land”: but for the wickedness of these nations does the LORD drive them out from before
you. Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these
nations does the LORD your God drive them out from before you, and that He may perform the word which the LORD swore to your
fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.
It’s not about you and your rights, but His rights, covenants and honor. God in His purposes can and
does do good and great things for people who don’t deserve it at all in Deut. 9:4-7
“Understand therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you
are a stiff-necked people. Remember, and forget not, how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day
that you did depart out of the land of Egypt, until you came unto this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.”
If revival is a new beginning of obedience to God, and spreads like an epidemic, disobedience can also reach
plague proportions. Notice the link of dishonoring God and His word to major disease and sickness on a
“If you will not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book,
that you may fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD YOUR GOD;
“Then the LORD will make your plagues wonderful, and the plagues of your seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and
sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. Moreover he will bring upon you all the diseases of Egypt, which you were afraid of; and
they shall cleave to you. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD
bring upon you, until you be destroyed. And you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven for multitude;
because you would not obey the voice of the LORD thy God.”
Notice other even more disastrous consequences: dispersal, doubt and ultimately dispossession:
“And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will
rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land where you go to possess it.
And the LORD shall scatter you among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other; and there you shall serve other
gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known, even wood and stone.”
“And among these nations shall you find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest: but the LORD shall give you
there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall fear day
and night, and shall have none assurance of your life: In the morning you shall say, Would God it were even! and at even you shall
say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of your heart wherewith you shall fear, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall
see.” (De 28:58-67)
THE BIG PICTURE
Why does God come down so hard on the accounting mentality?
What is there about this attitude that is so costly to true godliness?
It all comes down to what we treasure most. It all has to do with worship: of the great prior Creator or the mere
secondary creation. It is in essence the covetous focus on stuff and not life; what you own instead of Who owns
you; the chosen priority of the material, temporal and passing over the spiritual, eternal and everlasting.
None of us are immune. It was the first temptation in the garden for Adam, the first temptation of Jesus
in the wilderness, and the first temptation when things go well or hard for anyone.
You don’t first need own things to fall; sin can capture all alike, king or beggar. Covetousness is bigger
than owning; it lies in the wanting. As George McDonald said: “If it be things that slay you, what matter things
you have or things you have not?”
GIVING THANKS ALWAYS
What is the essence of the expressions of grace? Grace is not a blue-eyed blonde, not an excuse to sin,
nor a warding spell prayer to keep Montezuma’s revenge away from your missionary lunch. A daily grace at the
Lord’s table is to be a reminder of what God calls all of His people at any time in history to do; not forget Him.
True prayers of thanks are declarations of a loyal and loving heart. They are royal recognition that all we
have and are flows from enthroned Mercy, from One Who first gave us all in creation, then gave His all in
crucifixion so we can regain the All in His redemption.
The fool has said in his heart “No, God”.
An atheist is unthankful. He has nothing bigger than himself to congratulate or honor. A heart that covets,
collects and then self-congratulates is already antagonistic to the Lord.
This was Israel’s first sideline on the way to the land of Promise. God told them He would take them to a place
of His provision. He pledged His power and protection proved with many mighty signs and wonders. They said
on the contrary that He brought them out into the wilderness to die in the desert. They kept it up until He gave
them their request. Those who died in the wilderness murmuring against God’s provision died of atheism.
What is there about us that keeps pulling us back from the blessing of the invisible omnipotent God to putting
what He did into some kind of box we can control and command as if it is in our power?
Remember: life did not begin in a box.
How was it right from the start of all things? God was there first, God the great Maker always long
before He gave life to His creature. No-one was there to help Him. He needed no other to do what He did
supremely well. He did not make what He made to supply anything lacking in Himself or meet any emptiness in
His own existence. What He did in love wisdom and grace for that making was a pure gift - unasked,
undeserved and unearned.
The gift goes on as He intends. His gift is nothing less than life, finitely mirroring and reflecting His
own eternal origination, a God-given growth command that instructs and initiates continuous construction
around the original creation to give each creature its own unique housing, protection and expression. Each box
thus made is physically real, significant in itself and identifiably valuable, but the box itself is never the way
Within our world, He made distinction and separation of light and darkness, land and sea and sky then
spoke to the waters and the dust to set in motion a continuous creation. It was good.
In crowning this creation with humanity, God Himself first built a flexible frame of clay into which He
breathed life, and man became a living soul. And it was good.
At the end of all of this wonder He acknowledges again its universal value and beauty with “It was very good”.
We are all given a special box, but we are not the box. He is the only One with the authority to invest
life into a shape that He himself first fashions. The box is part of history but it is not the future. When our spirit
returns to God and the soul with its commitments goes to its own place, the frame returns to the dust, task
finished, its DNA record awaiting the final resurrection.
In the beginning was not the box, but the Word. In Him is life. He is Life and that life is the light of men.
As in nature, so in all creation. We must not begin with a box. We are not the Author or the Maker. The
accountant mentality reverses natural and spiritual order. It assumes description and categorization is the true
ground of creation. It puts the cart before the horse, and gives priority to that which is secondary. First the
Quantum, then the Newton. The unseen relational and invisible always precedes the visible and impersonal.
THE TRIUNE CREATIVE PROCESS
In her classic essay, the Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers 8 distills the creation process into the Trivium, a
three-step approach to learning taught in mediaeval times that made it possible for children to get such a grasp
of the nature of new things they were appointed ambassadors to countries. In contrast to the Quadrivium,
(which corresponds roughly to our modern “Subjects”) the Trivium was a mode of study, an approach to
learning taught through learning a language. A child learned how to learn in an order that images out the
creative process of the Trinity. They learned first a grammar, then a dialectic and finally a rhetoric.
The process mirrors real life development. First a child collects – masses of information, repeating words again
and again to imprint its growing picture of reality. Next, it begins to categorize what it finds – sorts,
distinguishes, files, places in boxes what has been collected. It finds the right words for differences. Lastly, it
begins to communicate - acts, speaks, sings, perhaps paints, draws, constructs or writes. Because what we
collect finitely mirrors the reality around us and subsequent sorting put things in some kind of order unique to
each individual, such resultant communication is always fresh, flexible and original.
Acquaintance of C.S. Lewis: British playwright, journalist and erudite detective fiction writer
This order is the reality of any finite creation. In the beginning, the Word. Next comes the separation
and distinction – earth from the heavens, light from darkness, mankind from the rest of creation. Finally,
benefits which can be shared, given, communicated – He looked on what He made and behold it was very good.
MAKING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD
Do you want to do something significant? Pastor a great church? Help helm a tremendous business?
Write a classic poem, a song, a book? Design a car, a cathedral, or a spaceship? Put on a play, a concert, a
gathering? Make something no-one has ever seen before? Then you must also begin at the beginning.
First collect. That collection for the child of God is not just visible data – mere information. It is always
first revelation –access to the infinite vault of Heaven and the Mind of our Maker. The collection process for the
Christian is never just facts, but insight. The prophetic is always part of the process. We are not just called to
transfer principles that are proven true but to give life to others. True light is rooted in an open heaven and
Collect. Collect everything you can along the lines of the thing God breathed into your heart. Do not
despise or dishonor these gifts. Do not attempt at this stage to analyze, categorize or criticize. Keep listening,
recording, collecting until your vessel is as full as it can contain. “Borrow not a few”. (2 Kings 4:3)
Then categorize. Go over what you have now and arrange it. See the Order in the Chaos. Informed by
the mind of the Spirit within Biblical revelation. Structure and sort and sequence as it seems best to you. Put in
its proper place, the box is a good tool. But put in a place of priority, its critical faculties arrest creativity and
block the free flow of vision. It is what kills a brainstorming session when someone injects “Oh, that will never
work!” It is what causes a person to endlessly return to the first line of the Great Novel revising “it was a dark
and stormy night” ad infinitum, ad nauseum. It is why people have drawers full of things they start but
somehow never finish. It is why people have lives that never seem to arrive and dreams that never deliver.
Finally communicate: state or show what you see as clearly and simply as you can. No need here to try
to “be original”. Originality is already implicit in your own uniqueness of vision and experience. Tell it like it is
from your perspective. Write, draw, speak it out. SIBKIS. See It Big, Keep It Simple.
GOD NEVER USES THE STINGY
Accountant mentality is a disorder not of reality, but priority.
Putting the box first is fatal to any vision. It places a finite perspective on possibility and makes rules before
establishing relationships. Harry Conn, Christian engineer, entrepreneur and executive observed after a lifetime
of seeing enterprises succeed or fail summed it up simply: “God never uses the stingy.”
The subtle danger of the accountant mentality is that it is not in itself wrong. It is something that while
obviously true has become corrosively misplaced. The disease of an accounting mentality is one not of
substance but epistemology; it is a breakdown of Divine priority and order just like cancer cells that falsely
reproduce worthless tissue from an intrinsic command at the eventual cost of the body. False-focused and out of
Divine order, it postures itself as the original prior right and sets up one small part as a whole.
Theologically it is thus the root of legalism, heresy and division.
In a family it generates alienation and separation, provoking children to wrath,
pushing partners to pride and false priorities and
turning precious personal relationships into rank rebellion.
In the church it creates murmurings, splits and congregational cynicism.
It generates degeneration and robs both faith and vision.
In the nation is produces prejudice, misuse of power and injustice.
Rules minus relationship equals rebellion.9
At the great End of All Things, the saints are gathered around the throne of glory. The focus on that great day is
not on each other, but on He Who sits on the throne. And finally seeing Him Who is invisible, they do the only
thing finite lovers and worshippers can do. They cast down their crowns before Him. They publicly
acknowledge again the absolute priority of the King from whom all blessings flow. They say by their actions in
that awesome moment:
“You are the One. You are the First and the Last.
We owe it all, everything we have accomplished or done or been honored for –
We owe it all to You.”
It is time for His church to get delivered again from the accountant mentality. How can we be saved from the
worship of the gift? Return to your first love. Resist the temptation to play God with what you have been
given. Do not touch the glory that is His and His alone.
God’s Kingdom is one of child hearts. He has no rebuke for those who risked the talents given them to
try to bring Him greater reward. His only strong word was to those of one talent who say they know Him but
complain how hard He is and hide away in a hole that first entrusted to them for original ventures of faith and
daring10. His rebuke is always to those with the accountant mentality, whose self-set rules make them afraid of
the new and the never-tried and who thus never try or do. Only those who think of what they have as a gift to be
used for others will not hoard what they have. Only those with a bigger vision than their own backyard and barn
will dare take the risks and responsibilities faith demands and dares.
Search and see in Biblical or Christian history.
Open your eyes and look around you.
Godliness and a generous spirit go hand in hand with His tangible blessing.
God never uses the mean and stingy to build His Kingdom.