Luke 14:12-24 - "Then He also said to him who invited Him, 'When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, 'Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!' Then He said to him, 'A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.' "
There is a lot to know about making excuses. An excuse may be a pretext, which is a fake reason or material put forth to allow us to shun our true responsibility. An excuse may also mask a preference, where we offer an excuse so we can do what we want to do, or avoid doing what we do not want to do. Sometimes excuses are made to allow us to put off doing until later something we should do now. If we are looking for an excuse, there are plenty always available.
Land, oxen and family are all important. Those described by our Lord in Luke 14 allowed the excuse makers to put something else ahead of things of greater importance. The man who bought land should have seen it before he bought it. Likewise, the man who bought five yoke of oxen should have proven them before he bought them. The man who married a wife was in error allowing family to come between him and the master. The statement of Jesus in the verses following (verses 26 and 27) makes this point very clearly: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple."
Some excuses that have been offered to me over the past 60 years stand out in my mind...
When another brother and I visited a young lady at her apartment, whose parents and younger siblings faithfully attended services, she said, "I was made to go to services continually when I was young, but now I plan to do what I want to do." I am certain she was "made to go to school" but am confident that she was glad she had received an education. Unless she repented, how will she stand in the Judgment?
A middle aged man, reportedly the "biggest bootlegger in _______ County, Kentucky" said to me: "Preacher, you have no idea what wicked things I've done in my life. When I can do ten good things for every evil thing I've done, I'll obey the gospel." I remember how sad it made me not to be able to convince him that Christ is ready to receive sinful, penitent men. Saul of Tarsus was "chief of sinners" but could say shortly before his death, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Timothy 4:7,8
Many years ago, one of the elders where I preached and I visited a young couple who, along with three small children, had moved into our community and had attended services regularly during the late fall and winter months. They began to be absent in the spring, and completely stopped coming when summer arrived. As we talked, we told them how we missed them at services. The young wife spoke up and said, "We work hard at our jobs all week, so on weekends we go to the river. We are river rats." She and her husband laughed when she said that. I don't remember what either the elder or I said in response, but in the years following that unusual excuse, I have thought about Moses, of whom the Hebrew writer said: "...choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward." Hebrews 11:24-26 Going to the river and enjoying family time is certainly not sinful. But there are choices to be made, and time to be arranged, so that we can worship God.
May God help each of us to stop making excuses and submit to God. May we yield to Him as obedient children and by His grace and mercy prepare ourselves for eternal happiness in heaven.