“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.”
2 Corinthians 13:5
“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.”
Chesbon Ha’Nefesh is the Hebrew phrase that literally means “accounting of the soul.” “Chesbon” is a Jewish technical term that is used in the field of accounting, which implies a thorough and exacting examination of all accounts received and paid, and “Ha’Nefesh” refers to “the soul.” These two words combined refer to the Biblical examination of oneself, namely the need to take a careful examination of our souls. For the purposes of this work, I am mainly interested in conveying to you various ways to take an accounting of yourself in order to grow and develop your spiritual life with the Lord. However, these principles can be extracted and used in other contexts of life; e.g. parenting, mentoring, counseling, business, leadership, and personal reflection.
The accounting of our souls represents a structured and comprehensive examination of our life. With the key fueling questions of WHAT and WHY? What is your worldview, why? What do you believe life is about…why? What else, why? What else, why? What are your strengths, why? This examination includes, but is not limited to: our (a) worldview, (b) beliefs, (c) identity, (d) values, (e) strengths, (f) weaknesses, (g) capacities, (h) environment, (i) purpose in life, (j) goals, (k) motivations, (l) family history, (m) personality traits, (n) roles, (o) careers, (p) physical health, (q) personal relationships, etc.
Your life is a systemic whole, which means that your feelings influence your thoughts, and your thoughts influence your feelings. Your decisions influence both your thoughts and feelings, and vice-versa. Similarly, people who study micro-expressions understand that certain eye movements and facial expressions correlate with certain affective and cognitive states. Thus, our systemic nature of heart, mind, soul, and will become evident via our thoughts, words, and behaviors. Within the context of our lives and discerning where we are going – it is the decisions, thought-patterns, and emotional feelings that we tend to regularly experience which will influence us in the future of how we live, move and have our being. Therefore, habits can be changed, emotional and thought patterns can be changed, beliefs can be changed, identities can be changed, and unhealthy behaviors can be changed completely in union with the grace of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
To complete this examination properly we will have to become aware of the various distinctions taking place inside of our being. Namely, you will become intimately aware of your fears, prejudices, assumptions, beliefs, emotional states, internal dialogue, and decision making processes. What you must realize is that the core drivers of your behavior are your thoughts, beliefs, desires, emotions, environment, and will. It is necessary to become aware of how these other levels of ourselves can be altered in order to influence new positive outcomes that are congruent and in harmony with God’s Word. This can be one of the most difficult parts of our spiritual growth, because it causes us to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly. David cries out, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13). Again, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 13:23-24). What is crucial to understand is that we must come to understand and know within ourselves, and say with Jeremiah “O Yahweh, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Yahweh, correct me, but with justice; not in your anger, lest You bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:23-24). Taking an accounting of ourselves is never done completely within one examination, nor is it done correctly in our own strength. It is obligatory that we openly confess any and all sin and forsake it (Proverbs 28:13), and genuinely seek and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to open up new areas that need cleansing, healing, and reconciliation so that all members of your being are set apart and sanctified for the work of the Lord (Romans 6:11-19; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 2:20-21; Titus 2:11-15)
Sin has distorted our perceptions, our beliefs, our values, our identities, and our relationships. Although this work will take time and conscious effort to know and excavate who you are, what you stand for, why you are here on earth, where you are going…….and why. The reward and fruit of knowing who you truly are in Christ enables you to say with Paul that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
So if you are committed to honor God with your life, and letting your profession and confession of Jesus Christ is Lord be the ruling standard of your life, then you are obligated to count the cost, deny yourself, and pick up your cross (Luke 9:23-26, 62) in order that you may honestly “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), and turn toward God and ask, seek, and knock for the desire to change, and the strength to endure because Christ Jesus is truly our life, our strength, our peace, our wisdom, our redemption, our sanctification, our joy (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 2:14; Deuteronomy 10:21). Since our thoughts and emotions are primary drivers for behavior it is crucial to redirect our hearts and minds to God again, again, and again in order to create new habits of the heart and mind so that we may seek God as our source for everything. Below is the Biblical foundation for the need of going through “the way” towards an accounting of your soul, and of your life. True humility is an accurate understanding of who you are in God’s plan, as well as your own weaknesses. The verses that follow present a Biblical foundation for the need to take an “Accounting of the Soul.”
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.
1 Corinthians 3:10 – According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 – Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
1 Thessalonians 4:4 – That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.
Galatians 6:2-4 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
James 1:23-24 – For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
Lamentations 3:39-41 – Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to Yahweh; let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.
1 Timothy 4:16 – Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
Proverbs 4:18-27 – But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.
Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways of man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and He ponders all his paths.
Proverbs 14:8, 15 – The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.
Proverbs 25:28 – Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.
Proverbs 20:5 – Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Proverbs 20:27 – The spirit of a man is the lamp of Yahweh, searching all the inner depths of his heart.
Psalms 26:2 – Examine me, O Yahweh, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.
Psalms 119:59 – I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.
Psalms 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Deuteronomy 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself (lit. souls), and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.
Luke 17:3-4 – Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.
Luke 21:34-36 – But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
John 3:19-21 – And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
Job 13:23 – How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin.
Ezekiel 20:43 – And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed.
Malachi 2:14-16 – Yet you say, for what reason? Because Yahweh has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For Yahweh God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says Yahweh of Hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.
Let us consider these verses well, because the Word of God is not simply poetic speech to be admired, but it is a Living Word that is designed to be implanted within us in such a way so as to take root and grow, and to bear forth much good fruit (James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Therefore, let us take heed to ourselves…Do we truly call out and desire to be cleansed of every wicked way? Do we sincerely desire to please God in all things? Why or why not? These questions and others will serve as guide-posts for our spiritual growth. The accounting of our souls enables us to examine what we actually stand for.
Basic questions to initiate examination.
Who are you? – Identity
Where are you from? – Origins
What do you hold as important, or who do you hold as important? – Values
Why are you here on earth? – Purpose in life, passion
Where are you going? – Future, vision, hope, faith
What is life all about? – Worldview(s), beliefs
What can you contribute? – Capabilities, capacities, strengths, weaknesses
What has shaped who you are now? – Culture, environment, family history, genetics, past
What are your priorities in life? – Life organization
These questions and others are designed to be asked over and over, this isn’t about simplistic answers to check off the box.
We each go through life and inevitably absorb our cultural values and norms on an often unconscious implicit level. The media (i.e. music, television, movies, Web, video games, social media, etc.), our peers, our family, and our schools are all involved in the formation of our psyche and because of this we accept certain beliefs, values, and worldviews at an unconscious implicit level. What I mean by this is that most of our beliefs, values, and worldviews are outside of our conscious awareness. Additionally, if you were to question yourself it would likely reveal only a superficial knowledge about yourself. This manifests itself when we truly begin to question ourselves on “why” we believe what we believe, or “why” we value what we value. How often do people go through life without coming to realize what is really important, what they stand for, and why they are here only to have a heart attack, stroke, or be diagnosed with cancer – which opens them up to question themselves and what is really important in life.
From examining my life and learning from the lives of others, I have come to discover that all life is about relationships, communication, and perception. Relationships with God, family, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, money, career, health, government, guns, various groups, food, ourselves and of course the list can go on. Since communication (verbal, nonverbal, and internal dialogue) serves as the primary interface for connecting with our relationships; then it naturally follows that perception is the primary filter for (a) what we see and (b) how we see it, (c) how we generate meaning, and (d) express ourselves [i.e. communication] in our relationships. So yes, in a very abstract sense all life is about relationships, communication, and perception; however, in a practical and concrete sense life is about much more than this. Having researched the fields of biblical studies, leadership, and psychology and meeting many people from all walks of life, it has become clear that leadership and life are inextricably wedded together. The leadership I am referring to is “self-leadership;” therefore, we must effectively learn how to utilize our “will” that has been regenerated in order to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Thus, as we submit our will to the will of God as revealed in His Word (James 4:1-10), and His Inspiration given through the Holy Spirit we learn to participate in the handiwork of God in our lives (Ephesians 2:10).
Life, here on planet Earth, presents its inhabitants with myriads of problems and life experiences. As a result of these experiences and problems, we create self-schemas which provide the scripts and rules we use that frame our perceptions to make sense of ourselves, our place in the world, along with the roles and functions we accept and internalize as part of our identity. In many ways our self-schemas serve us well, and at times they don’t because limited notions of ourselves and others can often continue to perpetuate behaviors, stereotypes, and beliefs that do not awaken and honor the dignity of every man, woman, and child into their greater potential(s) of why we are here on this planet to begin with.
Now what does all of this have to do with life, relationships, communication, and perception? In short, it has to do with our personal ability of leading ourselves under and in union with the Lordship of Christ Jesus, while being able to effectively engage with the world and the situations we find ourselves in, and in such a way so as to live, move, and have our being in the “new life of God” while also being a light, encouraging others, and building up the Body of Christ so that the Lamb of God may receive His due reward.
Therefore, we go about leading ourselves and submitting our will to the will of God in the context of actively and consciously seeking to submit all of our energies and being unto the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ. We cannot submit ourselves unto God unless we are actively seeking to consciously do so. This is where we consciously lead ourselves in union with the grace of God, to “present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13b). In short, this means living a life of holiness in thought, word, and deed and being obedient in the two great commandments, namely, to love Yahweh our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). Thus, as we lead ourselves in union with Christ by actively denying ourselves, picking up our cross, and seeking “to guard our heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23) we “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Examining ourselves and leading ourselves is not something we do apart from the grace of God, but it is our reasonable service to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, and to not be conformed to this world system (cf. Romans 12:1b-2a).
 The term vessel has been a matter of debate among scholars, the two implications is that one should know how to posses or master oneself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:20-21), the other interpretation is taking one’s spouse as the vessel (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).