I heard an awesome sermon today about a not so awesome fact. I am an expert at making excuses (and you too). Of course we may need to correct a wrong accusation from time to time, but that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about our ability to shift the blame to something or someone else, to dodge the bullet, to sidestep our responsibility, to attempt to ease our conscience with a little massaging of the truth, simply stated, to lie. We are experts at excuses, typically with the single goal of protecting our precious reputation or to avoid punishment. And we have been experts since day one. Consider a short Biblical history of excuses...
Genesis 3:12 (WEB), "The man said, 'The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.' " Adam gets our history of excuses started by blaming both God and his wife and sadly I have done the same.
Genesis 3:13 (WEB), "Yahweh God said to the woman, 'What have you done?'
The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' " Eve gets the same idea and blames Satan, and we also have followed her bad example only to learn that we cannot escape our mistake by blaming Satan.
Genesis 4:9 (WEB), "Yahweh said to Cain, 'Where is Abel, your brother?' He said, 'I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?' " Cain, Adam and Eve's son, also dodges the bullet for murdering his brother.
Genesis 18:14-15 (WEB), " 'Is anything too hard for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you, when the season comes round, and Sarah will have a son.' Then Sarah denied it, saying, 'I didn't laugh,' for she was afraid. He said, 'No, but you did laugh.' " And perhaps humorously Sarah outright lies to the angels that delivered the good news that she would have a son. She didn't believe them but neither would she admit that she didn't believe them and covered it all up with an excusing lie! Ha! Sounds to much like my own wrestling with doubt and faith.
Exodus 32:22-24 (WEB), "Aaron said, 'Don't let the anger of my lord grow hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, 'Make us gods, which shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what has become of him.' I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them take it off.' So they gave it to me; and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.'" And perhaps with the all time record excuse Aaron explains his cowardice to Moses saying that the golden calf idol simply leaped out of the fire all by itself! But before we laugh too much, what if our own whoppers were recorded in the Bible?
I Samuel 13:8-14 (WEB), "He stayed seven days, according to the time set by Samuel; but Samuel didn't come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. Saul said, 'Bring the burnt offering to me here, and the peace offerings.' He offered the burnt offering. It came to pass that as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. Samuel said, 'What have you done?' Saul said, 'Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you didn't come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines assembled themselves together at Michmash; therefore I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down on me to Gilgal, and I haven't entreated the favor of Yahweh.' I forced myself therefore, and offered the burnt offering.' Samuel said to Saul, 'You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you; for now Yahweh would have established your kingdom on Israel forever. But now your kingdom will not continue. Yahweh has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and Yahweh has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept that which Yahweh commanded you.' " Here King Saul moves ahead with his own plan, disregarding the Lord's command, explaining to Samuel that he was COMPELLED to move ahead without Samuel and without the Lord. Ya know we always have a reason for the things we do, but we would be wise to remember who is God and who is not God.
Jonah 4:1-3 (WEB), "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. He prayed to Yahweh, and said, 'Please, Yahweh, wasn't this what I said when I was still in my own country? Therefore I hurried to flee to Tarshish, for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and you relent of doing harm. Therefore now, Yahweh, take, I beg you, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.' " Jonah refused to obey initially and excused himself because he knew that God was compassionate. Man, we are a lot worse that we think we are, even withholding God's grace and compassion from others!
Matthew 25:24 (WEB), "He also who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you didn't sow, and gathering where you didn't scatter.' " And we are messed up on both sides. Jonah's excuse was that God was too forgiving and this man's excuse was that God is too hard. Again we blame God.
Matthew 8:18-22 (WEB), "Now when Jesus saw great multitudes around him, he gave the order to depart to the other side. A scribe came, and said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.' Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.' " Waiting to follow God in order to bury your father seems like an acceptable excuse, but not according to Jesus.
John 10:19-20 (WEB), "Therefore a division arose again among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, 'He has a demon, and is insane! Why do you listen to him?' " Again the blaming shifting to God gets even more serious. Whenever we don't understand God, we might even call him insane. Or if we are too 'good' to say what we really think about Jesus we simply redefine him to be more comfortable to our own way of thinking. The U.S. has marketed a personal salvation and a personal Jesus that we each define for ourselves. But there is only ONE Jesus and all His people share a COMMON salvation.
John 20:24-29 (WEB), "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasn't with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' After eight days again his disciples were inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being locked, and stood in the middle, and said, 'Peace be to you.' Then he said to Thomas, 'Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don't be unbelieving, but believing.' Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.' " Thomas along with all of us from time to time have a very good excuse, we will not believe until we have tangible proof. But in the end we are surrounded by tangible proof! The problem is not God and his proofs, it is our willingness or unwillingness to walk with God by faith and see the vast proofs he has already given.
John 21:19-22 (WEB), "Now he said this, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. When he had said this, he said to him, 'Follow me.' Then Peter, turning around, saw a disciple following. This was the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one who had also leaned on Jesus' breast at the supper and asked, 'Lord, who is going to betray you?' 21 Peter seeing him, said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.' " And here is an excuse that is still used daily 2,000 years later, 'what about him?' we complain as we point over the fence to those standing in apparent greener grass. Americans demand equality and fairness, but Jesus demands faith and obedience. Really our minds are too small and God too big to truly compare ourselves honestly with another person. Only God sees the whole picture as well as into each of our hearts.
The preacher asked us a question for reflection at the end of his sermon. Most of us may accomplish at least a few things in life without excuse: trusting God occasionally, perhaps going to church on Sunday, or giving some money to the needy. Praise God, that is good! But occasional trust or worship one day a week without excuse is not the ideal we pursue. What if instead we lived our entire life without excuses and not just on occasion, or Sundays, or when someone else was looking? Just what would that look like?
Maybe our lives would look more like Isaiah than Jonah. "I heard the Lord's voice, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am. Send me!' " (Isaiah 6:8 WEB).