What do most people do when they have been caught doing something wrong? They make excuses. Failing to find the time in our lives to know and obey God is the epitome of “wrong,” and it is inexcusable. As the Holy Spirit warns, “For the invisible things of [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). In our last issue, we saw that “I didn’t know,” “I couldn’t help it,” and “I couldn’t understand the Bible” are not legitimate excuses for failing to know and obey God. However, these are not the only “excuses” that fail to excuse.
“I had other obligations” is not an excuse. A few years ago, a book was published that was entitled, Busier Than Ever! Why American Families Can’t Slow Down. It is at least the common perception that Americans, and likely inhabitants of other lands of the globe, have filled their plates fuller than ever before. Workers are commuting longer distances to work, children are involved in more extracurricular activities, and people are recreating in ways involving greater commitment.
Although Americans are apparently busier than ever, it seems most are actually accomplishingless than ever, and this is certainly true on the spiritual front. Whereas Gospel meetings would once typically bring in overflowing crowds, the weeknight sessions of a twenty-first century Gospel meeting do well to bring in over half of the same people who come on Sunday morning and a small handful of additional visitors. Whereas the typical American home once had daily Bible study and devotion, the home that includes such things even weekly or monthly is now the positive exception.
But our busyness fails to excuse our attention to the things of the Lord. Jesus pictured His kingdom as a great feast, but the people honored with invitations to this extraordinary event “all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18).
The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come (verses 18-20).
Did the Lord tell His “too-busy” invitees, “I understand—you had other obligations; you had other things to do; you had other places to be. Maybe next time”? Far from it. The Lord is depicted as “angry” with them, allowing everyone but those initially invited to come to His feast, seething, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (verse 24). A similar parable Jesus told on another occasion saw yet fiercer wrath attending those who thought their “farms” and “merchandise” more important than responding to the King’s invitation (Matthew 22:1-8).
The Lord made clear to Ahab that being “busy here and there” did not excuse Ahab’s negligence of the Lord’s commandment (1 Kings 20:39-40). Jesus told the story of a rich farmer who had achieved material success, no doubt in part because of his diligence and hard work; “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).
Some consider themselves “too busy” to commit to living the Christian life, whether by initial obedience to the Gospel (Romans 6:3-4, 17) or by the repentance and confession required of an erring child of God (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). Some consider themselves “too busy” to attend all the assemblies of the congregation of which they purport to be members (Hebrews 10:25). But the fact is they are not too busy to do that which they find most important. As one observed, “No matter how busy people are, most are never too busy to stop and talk about how busy they are.” Busy people still find the time to go to work; they still find the time to attend their children’s ballgames and other extracurricular events; they still find the time to participate in recreational activities here and there. But what is most important? The rich farmer learned that all his “goods laid up for many years” would avail nothing when he had not made preparations for his soul to enter eternity.
It is agreed that one should make the most of his limited time on earth. We should be always “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). But one is not making the most of his limited time who is not living every moment for the Lord. James warned,
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (James 4:13-15).
Everything we do or plan to do ought to be prefaced with the condition, “If the Lord will.” When man’s primary obligation and purpose in life is to know and serve the Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 6:33; Acts 17:26-27), “I had other obligations” simply will not suffice as an excuse.
“I was afraid” is not an excuse. Many fail to accomplish what they should because of fear. And many believe their fear excuses their failure to accomplish what they should. The “one-talent man,” who hid the one talent of silver with which his lord had entrusted him to make profit, tried to take the edge off of his transgression: “And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine” (Matthew 25:25).
Were the one-talent man’s fears justified? He tried to justify his fears and consequent inaction, saying to his master, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:And I was afraid…” (verses 24-25). He expressed a fear of failure, that he might not turn the profit that his lord expected. He expressed a fear of not being fairly compensated for whatever good business decisions he might make with his lord’s money, that his lord would simply reap and gather what the one-talent man had sown and strewn. But both of his fears were unfounded. He was afraid of failure? His lord pointed out that he could have invested the money risk-free by putting it in the bank (verse 27). He was afraid of not being fairly compensated? His lord had rewarded the other servants with recompense far exceeding what they had done for their lord: “[T]hou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (verses 21, 23; emphasis LM).
Most of our fears are unfounded. Sometimes we create additional threats in our minds to excuse ourselves from doing something. Solomon wrote, “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets….The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets” (Proverbs 22:13; 26:13). This is almost as ridiculous as Twain’s “I-need-my-axe-to-eat-soup” excuse. The likelihood of being killed by a lion in the middle of a city street is tremendously low, even in 10th century B.C. Palestine. We worry about what others will think of us if we try to live the Christian life, despite the fact that they will have no say in our final Judgment (Matthew 10:28). We worry about failing in our Christian duties, when we are assured God’s presence to see us through (Matt. 28:20; Romans 8:31-39; Hebrews 13:5-6), and we are assured success if we remain faithful to the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 2:10). With such assurances, Paul reminds Christians, “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6, New King James Version). The Christian has no reason to be gripped with anxiety and fear, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). All fear does is counteract faith, stunt spiritual growth, and prevent Christian accomplishment. Edmund Burke observed, “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
And the Lord will not accept fear as an excuse. The one-talent man attempted to excuse his inaction by fear, but his lord (a picture of our Lord) responded by identifying him as a “wicked and slothful servant,” instructing other servants, “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents….And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:28-30). Likewise, we are informed, “The fearful…shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
To Be Continued
- The Bible (37)
- The Church (33)
- Holy Spirit (2)
- Bible Authority (11)
- Calvinism (7)
- Nature of God (9)
- Faith (19)
- Family Matters (7)
- Denominationalism (10)
- Attitudes (46)
- Christian Living (57)
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