In his book, Something Else to Smile About, Zig Ziglar tells a story about man who went next door to borrow his neighbor’s lawnmower.
The neighbor explained that he couldn’t loan him the mower because all the flights had been canceled from New York to Los Angeles.
“What do canceled flights from New York to Los Angeles have to do with borrowing your lawnmower?” the man incredulously asked.
“Nothing,” replied his neighbor. “But if I don’t want to loan you my lawnmower, one excuse is as good as another.”
Not only do people offer excuses in place of the real reason, but too often we justify our own behavior with excuses. There is, of course, as Andy Stanley observed “a fine line between a reason and an excuse” — and “one always disguises itself as the other.”
“From a distance, an excuse looks like an actual reason,” Stanley said. “Excuses get passed off as reasons, and excuses easily become, in the real world, ‘becauses,’ because all of us have some ‘becauses’ that we habitually hide behind when certain things come up.”
Excuses are a hindrance to success in every area of life. In sports, business, and education excuses are not accepted. Only successful results are rewarded. This same is true spiritually as well.
In the Bible, God never accepts excuses for a failure to obey His Word or to take personal responsibility. Adam and Eve’s excuses for their disobedience were met with God’s displeasure and banishment from their paradise home.
A classic case of the reasons-excuses conundrum is found in God’s call for Moses to return to Egypt, confront Pharaoh, and demand, “Let My people go.” Moses offered, in his mind five reasons why he couldn’t go. (Exodus 3:1-4:14).
1. “I’m a nobody.
2. “I don’t know your name.”
3. “Israel’s elders won’t believe me.”
4. “I’m not a fluent speaker.”
5. “Someone else can do a better job.”
Was Moses just being humble? Were these real reasons? Or was he simply making excuses?
Obviously, God wasn’t accepting Moses’ comebacks. Each time God offered an answer, a solution, or a miraculous response. In fact, the Lord finally became angry at Moses’ excuses. In the end, Moses accepted God’s call, went to Egypt, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”
Today, however, we don’t have the luxury of God’s direct interaction when we make excuses. We do have God’s Word to teach us, direct us and convict us. But, too often, it’s easy to excuse our sins, either of commission or commission, and feel justified.
A failure to assemble for worship, to grow in discipleship, to engage in fellowship, to serve in the ministry of others, and share our faith will not be overlooked by the Lord with flimsy excuses.
There’s a character in Leo Tolstoy’s classic, War and Peace named Pierre who’s forced to face his actions and engage in some serious self-examination. So, he prays to God saying, “Yes, Lord, I have sinned, but I have several excellent excuses.”
I suppose Christians think they’re offering “excellent excuses” when they make these rationalizations for their neglect of the Lord’s work, or their moral failures.
- “I don’t have time.”
- “I’m only human.”
- “It’s my wife’s fault.”
- “The preacher doesn’t inspire me.”
- “People are not friendly.”
- “The elders are not good leaders.”
- “Other people are guilty of the same thing.”
- “No one will listen.”
- “It won’t work.”
- “It’s not my responsibility.”
- “I’m too old.”
- “I’m too young.”
- “I will later…when I retire and have more time.”
Benjamin Franklin expressed it succinctly when he said, “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
Let’s resolve to make our lives as author Kim Scott expressed it a “No Excuse Zone.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman