It has been said, “an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” For example, if we don’t want to meet someone, we might make up an excuse that we must be somewhere else—when that’s really not the problem at all.
Even worse is coming up with excuses before the Lord. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 14:15- 24, A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, “I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.” And another one said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.” And another one said, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.”
Disgusted, the host invited people off the street to fill his dinner hall and vowed that “none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner!”
Here are some all-too-common excuses, and some corrective thoughts.
“This year, I’m not going to work as hard in church as I did last year. I need a break.” It’s tempting to rationalize that a period of faithful work pays forward our account until eternity. But the Bible says, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9). So how long do I have to keep it up? Jesus says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
“Someone else can do a better job than I can.” Maybe, but so what? Does this change our own responsibilities before the Lord? Besides, do we think Bro. So-and-So was a marvelous song leader the first time he tried? Do we think Sister So-and-So was a skillful Bible class teacher the first time she faced six children? We’ll never become good at something unless we try it, and then practice it.
This interesting conversation takes place between Peter and Jesus at the end of His time on earth. “Peter seeing [John] said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:20-22). Let’s not allow the way God is using others to be an obstacle to our own growth and service. You never know—you may have great talents in an area you’ve avoided. Moses complained that He was “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10) and look what God did with Him!
“I have too many community obligations and activities.” But can anything be more important than the church? If we are too busy for God, then we are just too busy. Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
“Someone criticized me. See if I go out of my way again!” Yes, brethren can sometimes be insensitive and discourage honest efforts to do what’s right. It’s a shame. But our service isn’t
ultimately to impress them anyway, but rather, to impress God. Paul says, “...not by way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph 6:6-7).
“I just don’t feel like it.” What a selfish, lame excuse. I simply direct your thoughts to the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus prayed in agony, with sweat beading on His forehead like drops of blood. He prayed fervently, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
“Bro. So-and-So is not lifting a finger. If he’s not going to do it, then why should I do it?”
It’s a shame when other people don’t get involved as they should, especially when they are looked up to as mature members. But that shouldn’t affect me! Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That is, look up to a leader of the church insofar as he is a faithful reflection of Christ Himself. But realize that even the strongest Christian fails from time to time to provide the best possible example.
There is a whole other group of excuses people will use when it comes to repenting of sin: “I just can’t help it.” God assures us, “no temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
“God made me this way.” This excuse is often given in the context of homosexuality or drunkenness. The problem is, God doesn’t force anyone to sin, or design anyone to need sin to live. Instead, God says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13).
“Others are worse than I am.” You’ve heard of the man who got pulled over doing 80 in a 65? His excuse was that others were passing him doing 85. The cop probably wished he’d caught the other guy, too, but someone else’s lawbreaking doesn’t change one’s own. “Who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12).