“But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:8–13

Children bicker. We all remember our youthful days of sibling rivalry, or as I like to call it, “sniveling rivalry!” Children are extremely adept at finding fault and inconsistencies in others (both in their parents and in their siblings). Complaints fly when there is any perceived inequity or when there is “hay to be made” if a sibling has disobeyed some family edict. Quick as a wink, two whining kids are standing in front of mom or dad and competing to get their own story heard first.

My mother used to deal with her fair share of bickering among us kids. Summertimes where usually ripe with little-kid complaints about each other. After her presence had been required because of the rising decibels, and she had settled the score to her satisfaction, she would often share some words of wisdom. She would say something like, “If you would spend as much time worrying about what you are doing as you do worrying about what someone else is doing, you would not get in so much trouble.” In other words, “You have more than enough to do to take care of yourself!”

My father’s advice was not as often given as was his administration of corporal punishment. But when he did speak about our sniveling complaints, he shared something that was not remotely understood by us kids. Having grown up as an only child, he would say, “When I was a little boy, I would have loved to have a brother; we would not have fought like you kids do!” Though I dared not say it then, I know now that he surely would have. Fighting among siblings is in their sinful little natures!

Interestingly enough, both forms of admonition pertain to adults today, and believers in particular. If we really did pay as much attention to our own “business” as we do complaining about someone else then we would not have as much time to get into trouble. Taking care of our own obligations is tough enough. Even the advice my dad gave has meaning for full grown believers too. We now have true brothers, like no other brothers we have naturally had. These are brothers who are dearly beloved of our Lord and by our heavenly Father.

The problem is that we do not always grow up in every aspect of our lives. It is one thing for an unsaved person to excuse their lack of church attendance by claiming that “there are too many hypocrites who go there!” Well, truth be told, “too many hypocrites going there” never stopped him from going to a grocery store, a restaurant, a doctor’s office, work, or even home to his own household. What is probably his reasoning is that he once knew someone, with less than a stellar reputation, who attended that church at one time. Most often he is reaching after an excuse that sounds plausibly realistic. The reality is that his excuse betrays his own immaturity, somehow making the actions of another responsible for his own action.

It is one thing for an unregenerate man to act unsaved, but it is a real problem when a Christian spouts such immaturity. Our text is one of the proof texts of the great Baptist distinctive of “Individual Soul Liberty.” Simply stated, Individual Soul Liberty is defined as “every man will stand before God and give account for himself and the things he has done.”

It is precisely because of soul liberty that a church may have hypocrites who are in attendance. The quality of a person’s religion cannot be coerced, either by the church or the state. Colonial preacher John Leland said, “Every man must give an account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in that way that he can best reconcile it to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the Day of Judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise let men be free.” And colonial preacher Isaac Backus said, “Religious matters are to be separated from the jurisdiction of the state, not because they are beneath the interests of the state but, quite to the contrary, because they are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the state.”

In our text, Paul draws your attention away from squabbles among men to your own pending review when individually standing in the presence of God. You will be compelled to give an accounting of yourself. I doubt, in that day, that your feeble excuses and complaints concerning others will be tolerated and given an airing! While you are earthbound, it takes all your best effort to pursue eternal values and not be distracted by the petty, the peevish, and the personal. It takes maturity to be able to discern between what slights are important to God and what slights are meaningless on the scale of eternity (John 7:24; 1 Peter 4:15ff; and 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Are you ready to give an account for yourself, for yourself alone, to God? Trust and obey.