“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.
The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
~ Luke 14.16-24, ESV (emphasis mine)
Several years ago B.K. (before kids) my spouse and I hosted a “Singing in the New Year” party. We invited people to enjoy food, games, and offering praise to God as the new year ushered in. Out of the forty people we invited, only half showed up. We had a fantastic time and the twenty that showed up suggested we do it again the following year.
The other half that didn’t come said the invitation had not been sent early enough and they already had plans. It seemed a plausible excuse, so the following year, we sent out the invites immediately after Thanksgiving, requested RSVPs, and sent out a reminder about a week before the party. We still had a great turn out, but the people who didn’t come the first time still didn’t RSVP until a few days before, saying, “oh, I already had plans.”
If they already had plans, why didn’t they send their regrets when the invitation was sent a month before?
Oh, the sting of weak excuses…
Their refusal would not have hurt at all if it hadn’t been wrapped in a weak excuse. We sent out early invitations in response to the first excuse. The second excuse made it abundantly clear to us that we were not as exciting or important as other people. While I try to make every effort to assume the best of people, sometimes the truth is undeniably clear.
Jesus’ parable of the great banquet illustrates the problem with weak excuses. Many believe this parable described the apathy of the Jews (particularly the Jewish leaders) to the invitation of the gospel. Furthermore, because they refused the truth, the gospel would be extended to the Gentiles who would receive it with joy because they did not anticipate such an honor.
In his commentary on the New Testament, Warren Wiersbe notes that the custom of Jesus’ time was to extend an invitation to a banquet with the day of the feast, but not the hour. This allowed the host time to prepare enough food for his guests (slaughter animals, bake bread, gather wine, etc). Once everything was ready, the servants would summon each of the guests to come to dinner.
In essence, the excuse-making guests in this parable had already agreed to attend; these excuses came at the final summons. They tried to make themselves look good with their flimsy excuses, but the master of the house saw straight through them.
Oh, the sting of weak excuses…
This parable addresses the invitation to dine at the feast of salvation—and feast it is! God abundantly feeds us with His presence, His Word, His Spirit, and His great love. To refuse seems so foolish!
If we have already accepted the invitation for salvation, do we continue to refuse His call of obedience?
Do we persist in making excuses??
“I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it.”
God has given many of us the blessing of an earthly home as well as the ability to earn money. We are to manage these blessings responsibly. But how often do we lay aside the important work of God for the immediate demands of life?
Do I make excuses about serving the Lord because of my job, my home, or my hobbies?
When I put other “demands” before God, how does He feel? If I truly love Him with my whole heart, will I use these demands as an excuse for disobedience?
“I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must examine them.”
“Not many customers in our modern world would buy a used car that they had not taken out for a “test drive.” Furthermore, how could this man really put these oxen to the test when it was so late in the day? His statement “I go to prove them!” suggests that he was already on his way to the farm when the servant came with the final call to the dinner.”
~ Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary
The modern church is plagued by this pervasive notion that we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter because of grace. Such an attitude is what theologian Deitrich Bonhoeffer would call “cheap grace” and does not align with what God teaches throughout the scriptures. When we become a child of God, our attitude and focus should shift from serving self to serving God. If we are baptized into Christ with no intention of changing our ways, then all we’ve done is get wet. The Lord wants whole hearts, not half commitments.
“I have married a wife, and therefore cannot come.”
Under the Mosaic law, marriage only exempted a man from one duty: He did not have to go to war within the first year. (Deut. 24.5)
While new relationships frequently turn our lives upside down, should we use them as a perpetual crutch?
I have not forgotten the early chaos of juggling three kids under the age of four—a newborn, a potty-training toddler, and a three-year old suffering from sensory issues. Just imagine trying to get them all out the door on time to go to worship…
I have not forgotten what it was like adjusting to the first year of marriage.
This is the question I need to ask myself: Should I use my family as an excuse not to serve God?
My primary job in this season is to teach and train my children in the Lord. Am I obeying? Or, am I putting music, sports, academics, and/or friends ahead of that call?
If you are newly married, are you using this season to build godly habits with your new spouse, extend hospitality, and/or host bible studies?
Don’t use your family as an excuse, but rather a stimulus to serve the Lord more richly.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.
~ 1 John 2.4-5, NASB
God is so patient with us, my friends. His love is deep, His grace unfathomable, His mercy beyond compare. Our Heavenly Father has adopted us into His family and deserves every bit of ourselves we have to offer. Let’s not wound our loving Father with heartless excuses. If God is truly King in our hearts, let’s show this in the choices we make every hour of every day until He returns or calls us home.
This is part 6 of the series, “Why are you making excuses?” To read the previous posts, click the following links:
“I’m sorry, but…” – Removing unnecessary excuses from our apologies.