Excuses are almost as old as the human family. Way back in the Garden of Eden when Adam sinned against the Lord, he said to God, “The woman thou gavest me, she caused me to sin” (See Genesis 3:12). And the woman tried to put the blame on the serpent. Both Adam and Eve tried to make excuses. And from that day on down to the present time, people have been making excuses and alibis whenever they are faced with activities and decisions which are disliked.
In Luke 14 we have the record of a parable that Jesus told. The Parable illustrates the art of excuse-making. We will note three major emphases in the Parable Jesus told.
1. The Invitation Is To a Feast
According to the parable in Luke 14, a distinguished person (at great expense), provided a sumptuous supper, and had invited many—but when the time came for the arrival of the guests, some absented themselves and sent excuses. The fact was that they didn’t want to go and they didn’t have courage enough to say “We won’t go”—so they manufactured excuses and lies, and said, “We can’t go.”
Those invited were not asked to attend a funeral, or some dry lecture on an irrelevant subject. They were not invited to visit a hospital or a prison or a madhouse. They were invited to a feast, mind you, and still they gave excuses.
The Gospel is represented in the Bible as a Feast. God, at infinite cost, has provided a Feast of good things for perishing sinners. One of the good things that God offers is the forgiveness of sins. The Bible says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Another of the good things which is received when responding to the Gospel invitation, is the protection afforded by the angels. Angels are ministering spirits sent to “minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Another benefit of accepting the invitation to the Gospel Feast is the promise of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (See Acts 2:38). And in addition to all these good things—at the close of this age there is going to be an actual Feast for God’s children. The Bible calls it “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” It is a wedding supper described in Revelation 19:9.
The Scriptures do not tell us exactly what the Marriage Supper will be like, but all of God’s children are going to be gathered from the north and the south and the east and the west—and are going to sit down in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:29). Jesus Christ will be the host; surely none of us wants to miss it.
If you are one who is rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and as the Master of your life—think of what you are asking to be excused from: You are asking to be excused ... .
- from Heaven
- from the society of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb
- from the company of angels
- from the presence of God the Father
I have missed a few appointments in life, but by the grace of God, I mean to make sure of this one. And certainly not one person reading this message wants to miss the privilege of sitting down at the Marriage Feast in Heaven, and seeing the King of kings in all His beauty, and living forever in the Lord’s presence.
2. The Excuses Were Threefold
We will look more carefully at each of the three persons who “with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18). Notice that they did not have an excuse; they made an excuse.
The first man said, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it.” The obvious question is: Why didn’t he take a look at the ground before he bought it? Furthermore, he couldn’t make the bargain any better by going to look at it now. And more than that, now that he did own it, he could go and look at the ground any time; it wouldn’t run away. Surely he didn’t have to go see the plot of land that evening, but the fact was, he didn’t want to go to the feast—and so he manufactured this excuse in order to ease his conscience. This man is a picture of those people who have large possessions and whose belongings take nearly all their attention, and thus rob them of spiritual wealth.
The second man (when invited to the sumptuous supper) absented himself and sent an excuse also. He said, “I bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused” (Luke 14:19). The man bought ten oxen—an investment of perhaps several hundred dollars by today’s standards—and he wanted to go and try them out. But like the other man, now that the bargain was closed, he could have gone and proved them any time. And furthermore, this man was invited to a supper—and Oriental folks eat supper after dark (after the sun has gone down). It’s true that one can plow with a tractor at night but all of us know that oxen don’t come equipped with lights, and it is impossible to plow in the dark. And so this man’s excuse (of having to prove his oxen) was simply unreasonable. He represents those who are so absorbed in their occupations that they let no opportunities for the concerns of the soul.
The third man’s excuse was perhaps the most ridiculous of them all. He said, “I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.” But why didn’t he take his wife with him? She would have enjoyed a pleasant night eating out. He could at least have asked her to go—but the fact was he did not want to go, and so he manufactured an excuse.
Each of these three men had a secret unwillingness to partake of the feast. They had no desire to accept the invitation. They were immersed in worldly, selfish interests, and just didn’t want to be bothered!
Nineteen hundred years have rolled by since the feast recorded in Luke 14, and people tell us that the world has grown wiser since that time—but do men really have better excuses now than they had then?
Some say, “I bought this farm, and it ties me down; I just don’t have time for the Lord.” Others say, “My business is so straining; I’ve just got to rest on Sundays.” Another says, “I married a husband, and he isn’t interested in God’s people; and if he doesn’t show any interest it is no use I come and bring the children.”
Remember that the same invitation extended to these three men 1900 years ago, is still extended to us today. The invitation of God to every unsaved sinner, is “Come, for all things are now ready.” Jesus has died; He was the Just One dying for us the unjust ones that He might bring us to God. He pleads with the lost soul, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). But most respond to the invitation in about the same manner as the men described in Jesus’ Parable recorded in Luke 14. They make excuses.
3. The Making of Excuses Is Common Today
Every excuse offered (for not coming to Jesus Christ) is just as empty and just as unreasonable and just as unfounded as the excuses given by the three who were invited to the king’s supper.
a) If I become a Christian, I’ll have to give up all pleasure and my joy will be gone. But you see, there is a fallacy in such a statement, because to become a child of God doesn’t make one gloomy! It doesn’t mean that one’s joy is forever gone. Consider a man about to go to the electric chair. In a few moments his soul is going to be launched into eternity—but flashing over the wires comes a message from the governor who has just granted a pardon. A messenger runs to the guilty man and shouts, “Good news! You don’t have to die; you don’t have to go to the electric chair. Tonight the governor has issued a pardon!” Does that make him gloomy?
Does it make one sad to know that his sins have been forgiven? Does it make one gloomy to have the hope of eternal life? Satan has done a good job getting men to think that if they become Christians, all the joy of life will be gone, and that they will have to walk around with faces as long as saxophones. But there is not a bit of truth to it. The Gospel is “good tidings of great joy,” and not “sad tidings of great misery.” What you give up when becoming a Christian is trifling when compared with what you get. Paul preached salvation through faith in Christ to a Roman governor named Felix, but Felix turned Jesus down. It is true that he would have had to give up his sins; his wife Druscilla would have had to go back to her first husband; Felix would have lost some friends. But he would have gained infinitely more than he lost. His sins would have been forgiven; the peace of God would have flooded his soul; Jesus would have daily walked by his side; and at the end of the road he would have gone out to live with Him forever. The Bible promises that in God’s presence there is “fulness of joy; at (his) right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
b) I’m troubled about the mysteries of the Bible; I’m waiting until I can understand it better. After following Jesus Christ for many years, there are still a number of things I don’t understand either—and there is a sense in which I am grateful for it. For if I could understand all that is in the Bible, then I’d know that someone with no more sense than I must have written it in the first place! Furthermore, the Scripture says, “If any man will do my will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). If you do what you know is right, God will progressively show you more of His truth. I think the words of Mark Twain are a good answer to those who are troubled about the mysteries of the Bible. Twain said, “It’s not the things in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me so much; it’s the things I do understand and don’t always do that bother me more.”
c) If I am elected to be saved I will be saved; and if I am elected to be lost, I will be lost. But the Bible says, “Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). And again, “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). You have no reason to be concerned about the doctrine of election. God wills all persons to be saved—and that includes you. The doctrine of election is much like the preacher of a past generation explained it: He said, “God votes for you (He wants you); the devil votes for you (he wants you); that is one against one. Now (he said) you must cast the deciding vote!” If you vote for Jesus, then there are two on His side and you are elected into the family of God. If you vote for the devil, then there are two on his side, and you continue on the path that leads to destruction. And so you see that the decision is really up to you.
d) I am as good as the people in your church; you can ask my friends and they will tell you I’m not so bad. True—you might be as good outwardly as some of the members of the Church—but you are likely picking on some poor, lame, halting brother who doesn’t set a good example. Why don’t you take a first-class Christian and stand alongside him? You pass over God’s choice saints and select the best hypocrite you can find, and say, “I’m just as good as he is.” Why not pick out a real Christian (or better still, the perfect example, Jesus Christ)—and then measure yourself? You may not look so good after all.
e) I’m too great a sinner; there is no hope for me; I have committed all the sins in the book. The devil tries to make people believe they are good enough without being saved, without obedience to the Word, and without fellowship in the Church—but if he can’t get people to believe this—he will take them to the other extreme and tell them that they are so bad that the Lord will have nothing to do with them.
Of course, there is no doubt that you are a great sinner—and far worse than you can imagine. But consider the Apostle Paul. He said that he was the chief of sinners (the ugliest of all sinners). Yet he was saved. He believed that Christ died for the ungodly. And just so, you can be saved too. Jesus says, “He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
f) I’m going to accept Christ and unite with God’s people just as soon as I get the feeling that I ought to do it. That is like the man with an ax resting in his hand. He has some wood by his side. I ask him: “When are you going to start chopping?” And he says, “Well sir, I’m waiting until I begin to sweat.” But which comes first—the chopping or the sweating? And just so, a great many people want to feel saved before they ever get saved.
Furthermore, salvation depends not upon what you feel, but on what God says. Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). The promise of God is positive and clear, and it is worth more than all the feelings you can ever have.
g) I would like to come to Christ for salvation, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold out. There is a lot of truth in the old saying, “Never cross a mountain until you come to it.” The Bible says that Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith. If He can save us today, He can keep us tomorrow.
Your mother remembers when you were learning to walk. She sat on one side of the room and said, “Come; come on over to me.” And you started out, but you only got half way across the room, and down you went. Now what did your mother do? Did she become angry and say, “You are no longer a child of mine because you started to walk and fell down; there’s no longer any place for you in our family.” Is that what she said? Not at all! Instead, she ran and picked you up, and kissed away the hurt, and helped you on your way. The God of the Bible is more longsuffering and more kindhearted than the best mother who ever lived.
Jesus stands at the door of your heart and says, “Come, for all things are now ready.” What answer are you going to give Him? Are you going to offer some flimsy excuse? Or will you say, “The mistakes of my life have been many; the sins of my heart have been more; and I scarce can see for weeping; but I’ll knock at the open door”?
Read carefully now: If you want to be excused—God will excuse you. Yes He will. Verse 21 of our lesson in Luke 14 says, “Then (was) the master of the house ... angry.” And in verse 24 we read, “For I say unto you that none of those men who were bidden shall taste of my supper.”
It is easy enough to say, “I pray thee have me excused”—but by and by the Master of the House will take you at your word, and He will say, “My friend, you are excused!” “None of those bidden shall taste of my supper; you are excused.” The King of kings and Lord of lords is inviting you to a feast of good things today. You can make light of the invitation if you wish, and offer excuses if you want to—but the matter of making alibis is more serious than most of us think.
Suppose we would write out an excuse in words something like this: How would it sound?
TO THE KING OF HEAVEN:
While reading an article in the Bible Helps, I received a very pressing invitation from one of your servants to receive Jesus Christ into my heart and to be present at the Marriage Supper of your only Begotten Son. I pray thee, have me excused.
Would you be willing to sign that excuse? Would you write us a letter, and in the presence of God, take a pen and affix your name to such an excuse? I doubt if there is one person reading this article who would sign it. I have another statement in mind however. It is also addressed to “The King of Heaven.” It says:
TO THE KING OF HEAVEN:
While reading an article in the Bible Helps, I received a pressing invitation from one of your messengers to be present at the Marriage Supper of the Son of God at the close of this age. I hasten to reply, by the grace of God, I will accept the invitation right now!
Remember that every time you delay the matter of accepting Christ, you give sin a chance to increase and expand, and eventually your heart will become unresponsive to the Gospel.