I came across an interesting little book entitled “Excuses and Lies.” According to this book, here are some of the most frequently told lies.
“I’ll be ready in a minute.” The book does not specify whether men or women tell this lie more often, but I will take a wild guess and say that women do.
“I will do it in a minute.” That probably would be something a man would say more often than a woman.
“I have never heard that story [or joke] before.” When someone says, “Stop me if you have heard this,” we seldom do. We act as though the joke is funny even when we have heard it before.
“Of course I am listening.” That is usually said by a man to a woman.
Other frequent lies include “Nothing is wrong”; “Yes, dear”; and “You look great.”
I think we all engage in lying, deception and excuses more often than we would like to admit. And the difference between a lie and an excuse is not all that much. An excuse has been defined as the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. It also has been described as a lie all dressed up for dinner. It has been said that he who excuses himself accuses himself.
We offer excuses when we don’t (or didn’t) want to do something, while we offer reasons when we are unable to do something. The bottom line is that we all know an excuse when we hear one. As George Washington said, it is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
The first excuse that we know of in human history was given in the Garden of Eden. When God confronted Adam about eating the forbidden fruit, instead of just admitting it, he blamed it on Eve: “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12 NLT). Then Eve, confronted with her sin, offered an excuse as well: “The serpent deceived me” (Genesis 3:13). Modern translation: “The devil made me do it.”
One of my favorite excuses in the Bible is what Aaron said when Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found the Israelites dancing around a golden calf: “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out” (Exodus 32:24 NKJV).
Even animals make excuses for their behavior. I read about Coco, a gorilla that uses sign language. When she tore the sink off the wall in her pen, she blamed it on her little pet cat. She actually signed, “Cat did it.”
Jesus told a parable about people who were invited to a great feast but gave excuses as to why they could not attend. The protocol in that culture was to extend two invitations. The first invitation required an RSVP. And once the first invitation was accepted, it was highly insulting to refuse the second one. But as the story unfolds, we see people begin to make excuses and reject the second invitation after they had already accepted the first one.
One had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it. Another bought a pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another said he was married and couldn’t attend. These people knew how much money had been spent. They had already accepted the first invitation. To turn it down at this point was downright offensive. So why did they do it? They were thinking of themselves.
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And Jesus used this parable for an illustration about the kingdom of heaven. As we take a closer look at the excuses that were offered, we find in them the real reasons people today do not have time for God.
Possessions are more important. The first man bought a field and wanted to inspect it. In those days, buying a piece of property was a long and complicated process, not unlike today. There would have been many opportunities to examine the land being purchased. So to say you bought a piece of land and had to go see it was an outright lie. The man said this simply because he did not want to go.
Careers are more important. The second man had purchased a pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Oxen were used to plow fields – to make a living. There is nothing wrong with a career. In fact, the Bible encourages hard work and diligence. So the issue here is not that someone wanted to make a good living. The issue is that it became more important than God. If advancing our careers becomes more important than advancing our spiritual lives, then something is out of its proper order.
Relationships are more important. In contrast to the other two who offered excuses, this man wasn’t even polite. In the original language, there is a bluntness to his response. Effectively, he was saying, “Not coming. Go away. I am married.” While the first man was possessed by his possessions and the second man was preoccupied with his career, the third man represents people who allow human affection to keep them from God. What is more virtuous or commendable than the love of a husband for his wife or a wife for her husband? Certainly Jesus was not putting down relationships. But we can allow this to become an excuse that keeps us from God.
In every phase in life there will be things to distract us from God. When are young, we think we have our entire lives ahead of us. In adulthood, we have bills to pay … a family to raise … goals to reach. In later years, we are too old and set in our ways. But the Bible says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6 NKJV).
God has offered His forgiveness. Don’t wait until later to get right with him. Do it now.