ISSUE: 2018, Volume 15, Issue 3
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If you thought that the Bible is silent on accounting practices, then you would be wrong. When King Josiah was collecting funds to pay for repairs to the temple the usual reckoning, or accounting, was not needed for the money due to the honesty of those involved.1 It would also appear that one of the Levitical roles was that of accounting for the temple finances.2 In the parable of the unjust steward, the steward was required to give an account of his stewardship so that it could be scrutinized.3 These principles are still practised today in modern-day accountancy. The purpose of this article is to give young believers a flavour of the types of issues they may face within the accountancy profession.
Some accountants work in a practice, often as auditors, while others work for a business in industry. I have spent my entire career in industry, and so most of my remarks will apply to this sphere of work. The following thoughts are based on my own personal career, and it is highly likely that others in similar positions may have had different experiences.
Accountancy is primarily an office job, where predictable office hours generally apply. This has meant for me that it has been possible to schedule a regular morning ‘quiet time’. With added responsibility often comes longer working hours, which might interfere with such routines, so the need for discipline has been important. In some areas, excessive working hours are a prerequisite for career progression and I have been faced with difficult decisions here. Accountancy is not generally4 a ‘customer facing’ career and so I have never had to entertain clients, which is an area where there may be temptation to sin. Work culture sometimes involves socializing and nights out which may lead the believer to sin. I have never been under immense pressure to be involved in unsavoury office social events. When called upon to make a stand as a Christian at work, we can look to the great rolemodel, Moses. He was offered a big job with lavish palace accommodation included, but chose rather to stay with God’s people.5
Another issue to consider is the fact that certain accountancy roles and employers will insist that you become a member of a professional body. Membership of such bodies need not be viewed as an ‘unequal yoke’ as they are simply a means by which the profession can ensure professional standards are kept.6
Accountancy is a profession which often leads to positions of responsibility within an organization. The role is regularly quite mentally stimulating, which can mean it is not always easy to ‘switch off’ after work and at weekends. This may be a danger, because it can sometimes make it difficult to study the scriptures and pray effectively.
Most areas of work come with time pressures, and accountancy is no exception with its monthly reporting deadlines, and year-end audit issues. In these situations, I have found that it is best to be upfront with management with regards to assembly commitments during the week and on the Lord’s Day. If you show a strong work ethic, and willingness to be flexible on other occasions it may be possible to protect assembly meeting times in your diary.
A Christian friend of mine once worked for an accountancy practice and his first assignment was to prepare the books for a shop of very unsavoury character. Naturally, as a Christian, he was very unhappy to be closely involved with such a business, and requested of his employer not to take on this work. My friend paid the price of faithful Christian testimony and lost his job. I have never faced such issues in the industries that I have worked in, although there have been some issues of conscience to deal with. The management of some firms do try to persuade accountants to prepare accounts that creatively misrepresent the true financial position of the firm.7 Accountants are, however, bound by regulations that largely protect us from being asked to work in an unscrupulous way. Section 393 of the Companies Act 2006 requires that the directors of a company must not approve accounts unless they are satisfied that they give a true and fair view. Another area of potential conflict with Christian principles comes from the responsibility for authorizing
payments to suppliers. At times we may be asked to significantly delay payments, which can have major consequences for smaller vendors. Here we face possible difficulty, but also the opportunity to apply our principles to the situation.
A final consideration is that accountancy is a profession that is not tied to a specific location or industry. For this reason, I have found it easy to find work in locations with easy access to my local assembly.
1 2 Kgs. 22. 7
2 1 Chr. 26. 20
3 Luke 16. 2
4 Editor's comment – Many accountants are ‘customer facing’. They are very much engaged with customers not only in advice, auditing etc, but trying to ensure their client only pays the right amount of tax! A lot of Christians within this profession do have major ethical challenges when they deal with their clients especially those who are trying to elude the fiscal grasp!
5 Heb. 11. 24-26
6 2 Cor. 6. 14
7 Prov. 11. 3