The Bean Counters (Jul-Aug 1997)

By Matt Dabbs

by Shannon Kyle Beasley
July – August, 1997

27
My brother is a bean counter. No, by trade he manages an office, by religion he counts beans. I don’t believe it is necessarily a conscious act on his part. I do believe it was something consciously pressed on him as a necessity. He seems to be in constant audit of his salvation ledger.

Perhaps you’ve happened on a few bean counters as well. Perhaps you’ve noticed someone numbering them off under even your own roof, under even your own skin. Folks with a strong liking (if not love) for religion, a strong fear of the Almighty, and a strong penchant for numbers. It’s Christianity by accounting, it’s religion by record, it’s repentance by reckoning. It is cold and calculating, and it is all too unfortunate.

It does seem to be human nature to attempt to attain and maintain balance in just about every aspect of our lives. I finish the prime rib and contemplate ordering the strawberry cheesecake, and my mind begins its search for balance. “Well, if I do a few extra sit-ups for the rest of the week ….” Callaway comes out with an even bigger Big Bertha and I immediately look for amounts I can cut in my budget, funds I can draw on. A good bit of this is quite healthy. However, the amount residing in the credit column of our religious record is price paid by a man – the Son of God, no less – who gave his entire living. I reckon the bill is paid. My God is a spendthrift.

The bean counter apparently has an apparition of God sitting on his throne with a furrowed brow on his face and a big book in his lap. No, not the Lamb’s Book, the Ledger Book. My prayers for aid must go unanswered because of his busyness with business. God, who must have put the “C” in C.P.A., must also use a heavenly quill with an ocean of ink, for it will take as much to keep an accurate account of everyone’s debits (sins) and credits (prayers of repentance plus good deeds). In the end, the great I.R.S. Audit in the Sky, only the Christian whose books are in balance earns approval.

Well, we don’t really mean we “earn” his approval. We do need God’s forgiveness, but surely God doesn’t mind imparting it to us. I mean, I may have transposed a few figures but, boy, have you seen my neighbor’s books! That guy must be an embezzler! Jim McGuiggan, in his book The God of the Towel, writes, “It’s too tempting to sinners like us to belive that we justify God forgiving us by how well we respond to him. ‘I earned nothing, of course,” we’re willing to say, ‘but didn’t I repent magnificently?'”1

No. Rule-following and bookkeeping and bean counting shortchange my association with the Almighty. Our relationship will not fit on some financial statement. I’m not an employee at a nonprofit corporation with the Trinity serving as the board of directors. I didn’t put on Jesus to increase my assets. We have an investments partnership. He and I know that when I sin against him it is something altogether more than simply a debit that throws my books out of balance, relegating me to more numbers crunching, ever with an eye to the bottom line. It is personal. I’ve done a disservice to a friend.

Paul didn’t care much for bean counting either. And this is a man who could have spent time doing so. No, he had a few letters to write. In one of those letters he asks and answers, “Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death?? … I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:35, 38, 39).

Romans 8:1 does not say, “There is no condemnation for those who are: one, in Christ Jesus, and, two, not operating in the red.” There is no number two to it, for we are engulfed in the red, blood red! Max Lucado says it like this: “Just because you were grumpy at breakfast doesn’t mean you were condemned at breakfast. When you lost your temper yesterday, you didn’t lose your salvation. Your name doesn’t disappear and reappear in the book of life according to your moods and actions.”2

My brother is not alone in this situation. His category is full of those who, when “called to give an account of the things done in this body” can not only give it, but pull out the books to prove it.

Perhaps we’re partly to blame. Perhaps those of us who teach are guilty of laying a joyless religion filled with regulations on the shoulders of those most in need of relief. Perhaps we placed the beans in position, then whispered, “One, two …” What were the people to do but count?


1 Jim McGuiggan, The God of the Towel (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Co., 1997), p. 78.

2 Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996), p. 148.Wineskins Magazine

Shannon Beasley was an accounting major for six weeks. He’s still trying to balance his checkbook while seeking admission to a school of theology.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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