We speak of our challenge in giving; giving monetarily, giving of our time, giving from our abilities, giving over our priorities, giving thanks. In theory, we agree that we need to give more, but we make excuses in reality. We can find reasons others need to give more of themselves, but we often find reasons to excuse ourselves from such sacrifices. We are very capable at making excuses.
Excuse Makers in the Bible
- One of the first examples we would probably think of is Moses. In Exodus 3, God is telling Moses that he will be God’s messenger to His people. In verse 11, Moses begins finding reasons to excuse himself. Moses wants to know what makes him special, how the people will disbelieve him, and how he is a poor speaker. Finally, in chapter 4:13, Moses simply asks God to send someone else. By the time Moses finishes, God is angry with him, and Moses fails to get out of the work set before him.
- Likewise, in Judges 6, Gideon makes some similar appeals to God. When the Lord’s angel appears to him, Gideon asks how God could be with him during this time of oppression. Then, he asks how he could save Israel and points out his lowly background. Again, he fails to turn God from appointing this task to him.
- In I Kings 19, Elijah looks for his own death. He cites his self-perceived ineffectiveness. He claims to be all alone in his work for the Lord. He feels his work has done no good, for his efforts have availed nothing but a death warrant. God does not accept Elijah’s reasons for despair but sends him back to his work, reminding him that he is not alone so long as God is with him.
- Acts 13 records John Mark going on a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. As they leave Crete, however, and come to the mainland, John turns back from the journey for Jerusalem. In Acts 15:36, Paul and Barnabas grow contentious over bringing John Mark on another journey because of his leaving them previously. We do not know John Mark’s reasons, but, whatever they may have been, it is evident Paul finds them unacceptable.
The Rest of the Stories
None of these excuses is where the story ends, though. We know Moses stands before Pharoah and leads God’s people out of Egypt. We know how Moses intercedes for the people time and again before God. Deuteronomy 34:10-11 eulogizes Moses by saying no other prophet is like him. Gideon, in Judges 6:25-32, begins turning Israel back to God in his own household, making a courageous stand for the Lord. Elijah gets back to work in I Kings 19 and begins to mentor Elisha. Elijah stands up to Ahab and Jezebel in I Kings 20, and he stands up to Ahaziah in II Kings 1. Finally, in Colossians 4:10, John Mark is named as one comforting Paul in confinement, and II TImothy 4:11 records Paul requesting Mark’s presence, calling him useful in the ministry.
Each of these individuals become useful and productive for God once they stop making excuses and get to work. We may say “I can’t,” or “I won’t;” we may see our reasons for not working harder for the Lord as valid and reasonable. We may feel justified in our excuses for not obeying God. We can make all the excuses in the world for our actions or inaction, but God still expects humble obedience. Excuses failed to excuse Moses, Gideon, Elijah, and John Mark from His service. Let us each put away our excuses and strengthen our resolve to work for our Lord.
lesson by Tim Smelser