The Rev. Dr. Michael Nirva – Senior Pastor – Trinity Lutheran Church
The Foolishness of Making Excuses
The Word of the Lord: (Luke 14:16-21)
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I cannot come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. The owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”
When summer approaches a slump in church attendance often begins. During the Sundays of this summer, the lure of the lake is stronger than the pull of the pew. In this season of vacations, many excuse themselves also from their church attendance. I would say, that is actually with us spring and summer, fall and winter—the tendency to excuse ourselves from God and His kingdom.
Excuses are so commonplace, particularly in the area of religion, that it is no surprise to have Jesus refer to them rather pointedly in this parable. The basic lesson intended in this parable is obvious; Jesus used the figure of a man who prepared a great banquet and invited many to share his hospitality as an illustration of the Almighty’s graciousness in providing and offering eternal salvation to all people. The point on which the parable turns is the attitude and conduct of the invited guests. The first two men offered the excuse that their business demands prevented them from coming. The third man argued that he had marital obligations. These were examples of excuses offered by all those who were favored with invitations to the banquet.
The result was that others were brought into the feast from the streets of the city—the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. These received the blessing of the master, while those who were initially invited and made excuses, were not allowed to come to the feast. So Jesus is teaching all His listeners that the Lord does not accept excuses for failure to believe and that there are no valid explanations for those who reject His gracious invitation.
We also find it true today that people are very ready to make excuses for not making proper use of this time of grace. How strange it is that people make such excuses to God. For example, all Christians know that God requires of them that they hear His Word, worship Him regularly, and use His sacraments frequently. The Almighty has given His command that this be done.
Excuses = False Reasons
Looking at the excuses given by the people in the parable, we see that they are just false reasons. The man who bought a apiece of ground certainly would have been able to examine it another day; the one who purchased oxen should have found it possible to try them out another time; the one who was married could have brought his wife to the banquet. These excuses may have been completely fraudulent, just falsehoods or half-truths. This does not seem too strange, especially when we remember that this parable typifies the hardened behavior of people to God’s invitation.
Therefore, when an invitation of God’s mercy is extended, it is not unusual that people try to justify themselves in their own eyes and before others by making excuses which say, “No thanks, I want no part of it.” Under these circumstances, any excuse will do—the pressure of business, family obligations, the need for rest or recreation. Anything will do for an excuse because they do not want God’s company. When this is the case, it does not take much trouble at all to invent 101 excuses for turning down God’s invitation. Note well, this leads to forfeiting the happiness of the Master’s feast in heaven.
With this parable, Jesus shows the tragedy of foolishly excusing oneself from receiving His call to salvation and service. Pray God that we have learned our lesson well, that in Christ we respond to our Lord’s gracious invitations not with excuses, but with a joyful receiving, that His house may be filled, and that we be numbered among His guests in heaven.