30 May 2009

What’s your excuse?

MP's have been making excuses about their expenses for weeks now, but in case we think we're any better than them, let's think about some of our favourite excuses…

'But it's not my fault…'

Everyone with an older brother learnt to say 'He made me do it' at a very early age. We say 'I can't help it - I was born that way.' I pretend it's never my fault – in fact, I believe that I'm really the victim. Adam tried this excuse back in the Garden of Eden: "The man said, 'The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.'" (Genesis 3.12) In other words: it was Eve's fault, and it was also God's fault for making her. But God won't let us use what other people have done to excuse our own failures.

'But I haven't done anything wrong…'

This is a simpler excuse. We just say that we don't think we've done anything we shouldn't have. Saul tried this excuse in 1 Samuel 15 after God told him to destroy a particularly wicked group of people: "'But I did obey the LORD', Saul said. '…I completely destroyed the Amalekites'" (v20). The prophet Samuel has to point out that he can actually hear the Amalekite sheep and that the Amalekite king is standing there in front of them before Saul admits that maybe he didn't completely destroy them after all. By then it's too late: Samuel says that because he's rejected God's word, God has rejected him as king (v26).

'But how was I meant to know…?'

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who died and went to Hell (Luke 16.19-31). The rich man was so arrogant that even there he argued, "If someone from the dead goes [to my brothers], they will repent." (v30) He's basically saying 'If someone had bothered to warn me, I wouldn't be here.' The reply comes back: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (v31). It's true - we have stunning proof in the Bible that Jesus has risen from the dead and our problem is not lack of evidence, but that we don't want to hear it.

A Better Way

There is an alternative to lame excuses. When the prophet Nathan exposed David's sin, David replied straight away "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Samuel 12.13). He admitted to God in Psalm 51: "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." That's a much safer option than pretending we haven't done anything wrong because "if we claim we to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, Jesus…will forgive us our sins and purify us from all wickedness." (1 John 1.9,10)

Simon Tomkins
Associate Minister