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There’s No (Autonomous) Accounting for Taste

Written by Gary North on February 13, 2016

For which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to build it. Lest happly [it happen], after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14: 26-30)?

The New Testament deals in much greater detail with the final judgment than the Old Testament does. Only one clear-cut reference to the resurrection of the dead appears in the Old Testament, Daniel 12:1-4. This passage speaks of a book that is sealed for now but will be opened at the end (v. 4). The New Testament speaks of judgment in terms that can be compared with an account book. We are told that everything we think, say, or do will be reviewed at the final judgment (Matt. 12: 35-37). There is a relation between performance and reward. The parable of the talents speaks of this relationship in terms of earthly business contracts (Matt. 25: 15-30), but the parable points to final judgment. This same performance and reward relationship is spoken of by Paul (I Cor. 3: 12-15).

By placing His discussion of earthly actions and God’s judgment within the framework of business dealings, Jesus drove home His points in terms of concepts familiar to his listeners. His parables were often either pocketbook parables or agricultural parables. Jesus made His point through analogies that would be familiar to people.

This raises a significant issue: judgments in history. Why are men told to “count the cost” of their planned actions? Because of the threat of economic waste (especially time), and also because of the embarrassment suffered by those who fail publicly (Luke 14: 29). The Christian walk is a public walk. Skeptics are watching the performance of Christians. They will praise or mock Christians in terms of visible performance. Life in the spirit is therefore life lived in history. We are told in Deuteronomy 4 that the eyes of the world were on Israel. We are told in Matthew 5 that the eyes of the world are on the church, so we are not to hide our lights under a basket. There is a relation between the inner life and outward performance.

Judgments and Accounting

The standard textbooks in European economic history say that the development of double entry bookkeeping was a turning point in the history of capitalism, and therefore in Western civilization. The technique of recording each financial transaction as both a debit and credit allows the accountant to maintain tight control over all records, and also enables the businessman to identify fiscal hemorrhaging in his business operations. Double entry bookkeeping is an aspect of man the judge of history.

Scholars debate endlessly about the dating of this remarkable invention. Standard accounts place it in the year 1340 in Genoa. Scraps of evidence–literally–have turned up indicating that it could have been half a century earlier. The techniques were popularized in 1494 by Luca Pacioli of Venice, as a section of a book on mathematics. Double entry bookkeeping spread throughout Europe, changing every society it touched.

Pacioli also added words of wisdom concerning proper business attitudes and techniques.

Where there is no order there is confusion.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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