Sometimes I have “insights” that are not fully formed, but I just want to write them down so that I don’t forget the ‘idea’. This is one of those times. I am just saying that what I am about to say may not make sense, not just because the reader has a different point of view, but because I have not clearly communicated my thoughts and impressions. Caveat lector!
I rarely think of my work as being related to spirituality. However, the past couple of days, several things have happened that have made me review or revisit how I look at Accounting. For example, there are times when a report or statement is one Cent off, and I cannot go forward without finding where that one Cent belongs. It is easy to “fix” things, but it cannot and should not be done, because: first, it is wrong, second, it just doesn’t work at times. For example, if you are paying $3 million and the report you printed out says you are paying $2,999,999.99, one may think that you can just give one of the payees 1 Cent. No, not really? If you overpay one of the people, they will come back and ask (may be), but surely if you underpay somebody, you might as well not do it in the first place. What if you narrow it down to a particular person? You see to whom the 1 cent needs to go, do you just throw it in there, on her account? Not really, it may belong to a particular invoice, or period (month, quarter, or year)… Things like this make accounting hell sometimes. You cannot check off something as okay (it foots) when it does not. You can bet on it that it will come back to bite you; well, most of the time. Most of the “checks and balances” that you find in life, have their source in Accounting. For example, if you make $1 million during the year, and you make this money from work, gifts, and businesses, you are expected to report that you made $1m to the tax authority. You may wonder, how would they know if you told them that you made only $0.9m? Well, for starters, your employer tells them how much they paid you. Second, the gift giver is supposed to report how much he has disposed of in gifts. Third, the people that made payments to you need to have backup for the claimed expenses, so there will be receipts with your tax id on it showing money flowing to you. Fourth, if you deposited any money in an interest-earning account, the bank has to report the interest that they paid you, and of course, the money you deposited will show. Last but not least, you cannot spend what you don’t have. By looking at your statements, the tax man can have a good idea of how much income you made. Of course, my list is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of how, given time, the tax man can figure out how much you made (or spent).
Accounting has another basic side to it, which may or may not be looked at as “checks and balances”, the double-entry system. For every transaction, there is a debit and credit to it. A simple example would be if you bought a one dollar pen for your business. This is an expense. Your cash would go down $1 (credit your books), your supplies (expense) would go up $1 (debit your books). At the end of the day, your debits and expenses should match.
One last point that I need to bring up, is budgets. It is hard to imagine a functioning business that does not have an accounting budget. This just shows you what you expect to make or spend for the year. The fun is in the details. But as the year goes, you periodically look at items in the budget and see if you are where you thought you would be at a certain point in time. If something is so below/over-budget, you investigate it before the year ends (well, usually).
Well, enough accounting. So I thought about that and I wondered if the principles of accounting are applicable to other non-monetary issues. For example, if somebody hurt my feelings, what would be the equivalent in accounting? If I sinned, what happens in Heaven that is similar to accounting? So here is what I thought of as a possibility.
Assume that we are dealing with Cash, and the normal (or good) balance is a debit. Let’s also assume that good acts are debits. Then if you help somebody out and you feel good and the other person is appreciative of your actions, and Heaven is also rejoicing, then:
Debits: your good account in your heart; the recipient’s view of you; your good accts book in Heaven.
Credits: effort needed to do the good act; the recipient “pay it forward” account; your sin book in Heaven(?).
Similarly, if you hurt somebody’s feelings intentionally for no good reason, you can make the necessary entries.
At the end of the day, how you feel, the financial health of the organization, you and your fellow men, will depend on how accurate and how good your books are. Just like in accounting for businesses, the accounting for both Heaven and Earth, doesn’t lie.
The closest I could come to relating the accounting budget to life in Heaven and on Earth, had to do with expectations and potential. I think that’s what an accounting budget does, it sets expectations for performance with the conviction or commitment that the organization has potential to live up to those expectations, whether it is to cut costs or increase revenues or both. So what are our expectations and potential. On the expectations side: we are expected to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we are expected to work as if we are doing it unto the Lord, we are expected to discover what we are good at and devote it to the betterment of ourselves and of the human race, we are expected to discover our potential… It is not an exhaustive list. I presume that God and our fellow men, from their exposure and intimate knowledge of us, have a good idea of what we can do/be. That being the case, I do not think it is outrageous to think that each one of us has a budget of good works that we are expected to perform.
What if, in God’s budget, He saw that for the world to be a good place to live, I would have to help one person every day or every week. I would also have to give 20% of my income to my church, etc. If I help twice that number, and give less to the church, I am sure it may throw off the budget, but I cannot say by how much. It is not for me to know what the budget is. All I can do is my best. Just like at a company, the presidential team may have the budget, which the man in the warehouse does not know of. The man in the warehouse just has to do his best; make the best nuts and bolts for himself and the company.
If men can plan things with extraordinary precision, be it accountants, rocket scientists or Chess players, why would God do any less? Why wouldn’t God have a plan or budget for enough food or medication for everybody? Why wouldn’t God have enough leaders and doctors and followers and … for the world to function properly? I believe God has it all properly budgeted. It is just that we don’t take time to figure out what’s important and how best to allocate and manage the resources that we are. We are self-managing resources in God’s budget.