But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ (Luke 14:18-20, ESV)
Some years ago, my doorbell rang one evening. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but there stood a coworker. We were work friends but not of the “pop over for a visit anytime” variety. He quickly explained that he’d received an invitation he did not wish to accept, so his excuse for declining was he had previous plans with me. To justify that he wasn’t lying, he came to my house, said a quick hello, and then left. Maybe I lived closest to him. I laughed at his rather elaborate scheme for avoiding the invitation. A simple “no, thank you” would have been so much easier.
In Luke 14 Jesus told the parable of a man preparing a great supper (banquet). Invitations went out and preparations started to accommodate all who accepted. As was the custom at that time, the host sent his servant to announce when the banquet was ready. Three of the invited guests gave the servant excuses for not attending. One said he had bought a field and needed to view it. Another said he had purchased yokes of oxen and needed to examine them. The third stated he had married and couldn’t come. Although they had accepted the invitation, they showed no remorse in now ignoring it. Other things took their attention. But their flimsy excuses angered the master of the house.
I suspect we are all guilty of making excuses. Often, we use them to justify our actions or to deflect blame. Like the friend who showed up at my door, we are evading the truth. Early 20th Century evangelist Billy Sunday is quoted as saying, “An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Listen to our speech pattern when we begin making excuses.
“I’d really like to help, but . . .”
“If I had more [time, money, skill], I would . . .”
“I didn’t mean to, but . . .”
“I tried, but . . .”
Sometimes we make excuses because we doubt our abilities or are scared to step out into the unknown. Moses told God he couldn’t speak well. Jeremiah said he was too young. Gideon thought his family was too insignificant. Zachariah believed he and Elizabeth were too old to be parents. At other times, we use excuses to justify our actions or to shift the blame elsewhere.
It’s sad when we make excuses to a spouse, friends, or employer. It’s even sadder when we make them to God.
“I’ll have more time to serve You after I’ve settled into my career.”
“I’m too [weary, stressed, busy] to be more involved at church.”
“God, You just expect too much.”
“Well, no one is perfect.”
None of our excuses surprise God. After all, He’s heard them all many times before. By trying to justify ourselves this way, we are showing God that He is not our top priority. Like the men in the parable, we have allowed things such as possessions, business dealings, and relationships to crowd out God. If we hear ourselves begin to say, “I would . . . but,” then we should pause and consider. Can we fool God with our excuses?
The Lord has a banquet of blessings awaiting those who accept His invitation. Don’t allow the distractions of this life to crowd Him out.