Man has a knack for making excuses. Adam and Eve attempted to excuse their culpability in the first sin by blaming others—Adam blamed Eve (and God!) and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). Politicians attempt to excuse themselves by blaming other politicians or by claiming ignorance. Even Moses, “the servant of the Lord,” tried to make excuses as to why he could not serve the Lord as the Lord commanded (Exodus 4:1-13). People make excuses for wrongdoing; people make excuses for inaction. Some will even attempt excuses at the Judgment Day (Matthew 7:22-23).
And excuses tend to be silly—actually excusing nothing. Following an accident, one motorist filing a claim with his automobile insurance company explained the problem: “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run, so I ran over him.” Mark Twain told of an occasion when a neighbor, known for borrowing tools but failing to return them, stopped by wanting to borrow his ax. Twain replied, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to need it to eat soup.” The perplexed neighbor marveled at the absurdity of Twain’s statement; but Twain responded with the Yiddish proverb, “One excuse is as good as another.”
When it comes to failing to know and obey God, there is no legitimate excuse:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20, all emphases LM).
“I didn’t know” is not an excuse. Some will say, “I didn’t know God existed,” or, “I didn’t know that God had revealed a plan for my life.” This is the attempted excuse that Romans 1:20 dismantles and destroys. The creation itself reveals the existence of its Creator, and it reveals something of the powerful, Divine nature of its Creator. The psalmist sang, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1). Simply by observing the universe, the weather cycle, and the growth and intricate design of life on earth, one can easily determine that there is indeed a Creator, and a powerful, intelligent, and benevolent One at that.
The necessary things of God that cannot be determined from His general revelation in nature can be known by His special revelation—the Bible. And the Bible is readily available to almost anyone who might be reading this publication. Over 6 billion copies of the Bible have been printed in 451 different languages. Ninety-one percent of American households own at least one Bible, and the average household has four.i
Perhaps some may not have been brought up in a household with four Bibles, or with any Bibles. However, those who truly want to know the truth about God and His will can know. Seekers are promised that they will find: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). “[God] is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Ignorance is no excuse.
“I couldn’t help it” is not an excuse. Many attempt to excuse their sin this way—“the temptation was just too strong,” or “I was born this way,” or “I can’t help it—I’m just a man (or woman),” or the Flip Wilson classic, “the devil made me do it.” The devil certainly wants us to sin, and the devil entices us to sin. But the devil does not and cannot make anyone sin. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Although Eve tried to blame the serpent (Satan) for her sin, she was forced to acknowledge, “I did eat,” and the Lord held her accountable for her sin (Genesis 3:13, 16).
After Aaron’s inconceivable participation—and leadership—in the idolatry and accompanying lewdness which Israel committed at the foot of Mount Sinai, he attempted the “I couldn’t help it” excuse: “And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief…. So they gave me [gold]: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf” (Exodus 32:24). One does not have to be a metallurgist to know that simply heating gold does not cause golden calf statues to pop out.
Each one of us has the ability to choose right and to do it (Joshua 24:15; Luke 1:6). As the psalmist exclaimed, “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me” (Psalm 119:101-102).
“I couldn’t understand the Bible” is not an excuse. Some say, “The Bible is just too hard for me to understand.” Others argue, “Preachers and theologians do not all understand the Bible alike—how can God expect me to come to a correct understanding of the Bible?” But to make such statements insinuates that God is incapable of communicating as clearly as human beings do. Jesus promised, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Through “continuing” in Christ’s word, that is cleaving and holding fast to it,ii one can know the truth. This may require some effort, but it can be done (compare with 2 Timothy 2:15). Paul wrote, “…by revelation [God] made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:3-4).
“It was too hard” is not an excuse. Some view the Christian life as an impossible challenge. It is certainly a challenge, and it is hard work. But it is certainly not impossible: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). And if serving the Lord is difficult, the alternative is far more oppressive:
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?...For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death (Romans 6:16, 20-21).
Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard (Proverbs 13:15).
Jesus certainly offers the preferable alternative:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light(Matthew 11:28-30).
Again, we show our love to the Lord by keeping His commandments (1 John 5:3; compare with John 14:15; 15:14). “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Genesis 29:20). When we truly love the Lord, serving Him is never too hard.
To Be Continued
i Daniel Radosh, “Annals of Publishing: The Good Book Business,” New Yorker, Dec 18 2006.
iiMenM, in Joseph Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (n.p.: n.p., 1889), BibleWorks, v.9.
- The Bible (37)
- The Church (33)
- Holy Spirit (2)
- Bible Authority (11)
- Calvinism (7)
- Nature of God (9)
- Faith (19)
- Family Matters (7)
- Denominationalism (10)
- Attitudes (46)
- Christian Living (57)
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