Performance and Accountability (2 Corinthians 5:1–15)
In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul, who constantly faced situations that could result in his death, reminds the Corinthians that at the final judgment each person will be “recompensed according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10) These are unusual words for Paul (though not as unusual as one might expect; see Rom. 2:6–10), whom we normally associate with the doctrine of grace, meaning that our salvation is entirely unmerited and not the result of our own works (Eph. 2:8–9). It is, however, important that we allow our picture of Paul to be formed by what he actually says, rather than by some caricature. When we analyze Paul’s teaching in its entirety, we find it is in harmony with that of Jesus, James, and even the Old Testament. For all of them, faith that does not express itself in good works is no faith at all. Indeed, faith and obedience are so closely intertwined that even Paul can, as he does here, refer to the latter rather than the former when he actually has both in mind. What we do in the body cannot help but reflect what God’s grace has done for us. What pleases the Lord can be described either as faith or, as here, as works of righteousness made possible by God’s grace.
In any case, Paul’s message is clear enough: How we live our lives matters to God. In workplace terms, our performance matters. Moreover, we will have to give an account to the Lord Jesus for all that we have done and left undone. In workplace terms, this is accountability. Performance and accountability are profoundly important to the Christian life, and we cannot dismiss them as secular concerns of no importance to God. God cares whether we are slacking off, neglecting our duties, not showing up for work, or going through the motions without genuine attention to our work.
This does not mean that God always agrees with what our workplaces expect from us. God’s idea of good performance may be different from that of our manager or supervisor. In particular, if meeting our employer’s performance expectations requires unethical activities or harming others, then God’s review of our performance will be different from our employer’s. If your boss expects you to mislead customers or denigrate co-workers, for God’s sake aim for a poor performance review from your boss and a good review from God.
God holds us to a high standard of conduct. One day we will answer for the way we have treated our co-workers, bosses, employees, and customers, not to mention our family and friends. This does not negate the doctrine of grace, but instead shows us how God intends his grace to transform our lives.