Thursday, August 14, 2008

busy with the oxen

Humans love to make excuses. We do. We make excuses all of the time. Some of our excuses are good. Some are ridiculous. But we make them nonetheless. In other words, we try to justify why we can’t do this or that or the other. We seek to take the blame off of ourselves. “I wanted to stop by last night. I was just a little too tired.” We are not to blame – our fatigue is. This is what an excuse is – one big exercise in self-justification.

Humans love to make excuses. And this is the case especially in our life before God. And things have been this way for a while now. When Adam eats the forbidden tomato in the Garden of Eden, his excuse is “the woman made me do it.” When God questions Eve, “the snake made me do it.” Excuses are part of our DNA as fallen and flawed individuals – part of the nature we inherit from birth. And it takes a lot of work and practice and awareness and maturity to move beyond a life of excuses. Because the alternative to making excuses is to take responsibility for our own lives and actions. And taking responsibility isn’t always an easy thing to do.

It’s interesting to consider how ridiculous many of our excuses actually are. For example, God appears to Moses and says that He will deliver Israel from Egyptian slavery through him. How does Moses reply? “Uh, yea, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m kind of clumsy with words” (Ex 4:10). Jeremiah is another good example. God appears to him, and says I knew you before you were even born. I know you inside and out, and you are the one I’ve chosen to be a prophet to the nations. How does Jeremiah reply? “Uh, yea, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m a little too young. Try someone with more life experience” (Jer 1:6).

I think my favorite parable is Luke’s account of the great dinner. The plot is simple. A king (God) invites a bunch of people (us) to a great feast (kingdom of heaven). And here is what Luke tells us. “They all alike began to make excuses” (Lk 14:18). And the excuses are all ridiculous. “Can’t come. I just bought land and need to see it.” “Can’t come. Just bought some oxen and need to try them out.” “Can’t come. I’m married.” Seriously? These excuses make no sense. How do you “try out” oxen? Didn’t you see the land before you bought it, and if not, won’t it be there tomorrow? Humans love to make excuses.

I have two brief thoughts on the matter. First, every excuse we make is an exercise in self-justification. But we can never justify ourselves. We have no authority to justify ourselves. Only God can justify us. And God has done just that. Which means that we are free – free to live into God’s purpose for our life.

Second, when excuses revolve around our own deficiency, they display a false humility. It is always “God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). In fact, I’d even contend that God enjoys backing the underdog. God likes to speak through people who stutter. God likes saving the world through a man “accounted … stricken, struck down by God” (Is 53:4). God likes to put his “treasure (grace) in clay jars (humans), so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor 4:7). All power belongs to God. And so if God calls us, and God has, our excuses are all ridiculous. So no matter what we say, and how “good” our excuse sounds to us, all God hears is “I’m busy with the oxen.”

FOR THE WEEKEND: Consider where you’re making excuses in your own life before God. If you’re anything like me, “not enough time” is your favorite. Relationships take time. And our relationship with God is no different. Time is never something we “have.” Time is always something we “make.”


KAM said...


Anonymous said...

I was going to call you but I forgot.

Toothpick said...

Keep up the good work, buddy. These are very well done and I know several people that are enjoying them. Thanks buddy - THughes