But they all alike began to make excuses. – Luke 14:18
Several things should be noticed from this parable which Jesus told in response to a dinner guest’s pious sounding but hypocritical and insincere reaction to Jesus’ teaching on ambition and humility (Lk 14:7-15). The parable teaches that it is one thing to affirm biblical truth and another thing to live it. It is one thing to be a hearer and professor and another to be a doer (Jm 1:22). It is one thing to profess a love for God and a desire to commune with Him, and another altogether to follow through on that profession. The word translated “make excuses”, paraiteisthai, is a very strong word and means “to reject; repudiate; disdain, spurn”, and is in the present tense, indicating this was their habitual response to the master’s invitation. It is the nature of our fallen flesh to invent and offer excuses for rejecting God and His word, and to justify and legitimize our disobedience and unbelief in our own eyes.
The first thing to notice is that the guests had been invited prior to being told that everything was now ready (Lk 14:16,17).
They had all made a prior commitment to come, but now that all was ready “they all alike began to make excuses”, proving that their prior acceptance had been insincere. This is true of all who make insincere professions of faith.
As soon as they are called to honor their commitment, as soon as they realize the cost of discipleship is higher than they had calculated, as soon as they understand they must renounce their idols of self and the world and when they see they must submit their presuppositions to the authority of Scripture, then they begin to make excuses. As soon as the demands of the Gospel are urged upon their life, excuses, both to themselves and to others, begin to flow. The excuses are only limited by the deceitfulness of sin to invent and offer them.
More often than not their excuses are countenanced and validated by others because they are likewise making excuses. It has never been easier to find people who will not only validate a person’s excuses, but are ready and willing to offer more (2 Tm 4:3,4). They seem to think their pretexts are original and unique to them, but they have all been made before, countless times for generations, since the beginning of time. To flatly refuse or ignore the invitation would have been impolite, indecent, and socially unacceptable, so they offer excuses to absolve themselves of any blame for rejecting it.
The second lesson to observe is how frivolous, shallow, and provoking to God are all these excuses.
In this parable Jesus did not overlook a single category of excuse which the mind of man could invent. It takes up excuses in mass and condemns them all. There is no hint of any exception. It will be useless to plead that God’s word is ambiguous when generations who have gone before, even children, have found it abundantly clear. Ignorance of God’s will and His word will be a frivolous excuse since He has graciously made both so readily available.
The attempt to exonerate self by shifting the blame to God (“God made me this way”, etc.) will not work (Job 40:8; Lk 19:20-23). Will you mitigate your following false teaching and false teachers with the excuse that so many others can’t be wrong? Will you excuse error and heresy because it is taught by a popular preacher? Will you extenuate sin under the cloak of “love”?
It is useless to claim that there is not enough evidence to convince you that God’s word is true, inerrant, trustworthy, and authoritative when the wisest people in every age have examined it and trusted every word. In vain will you use the existence of hypocrites in the church as an excuse to reject God’s word; to say that the lives of the professing Christians you know are no better than unbelievers. Would you perish with them? This is no more than what the Bible teaches us to expect. Hypocrites only confirm the truth of Scripture, not invalidate it (Tit 1:16; 1 Jn 2:19; Jude 4; Rv 2:14,15).
It is useless to think, like Saul, that you can excuse current disobedience and rejection with intentions of greater future sacrifice (1 Sm 15:20-23).
With what pious-sounding pretenses will you cloak your carnal, materialistic, worldly lives and worship (Lk 16:15)? How will you justify ignoring and redefining God’s clear distinctions and violating His commands and examples (Phil 3:17; 1 Tm 6:20,21; 2 Tm 1:13,14)? How will you excuse assimilating the world into the church to the point where in America the true church and true Christianity have nearly been assimilated out of existence? What reasons will you offer for corrupting God’s word with human wisdom, claims of extra-biblical revelation and mystical experiences, or for profiting from the corruption of God’s word? (Jer 23:26,27). How will you explain making no distinction between the holy and the profane (Ezk 22:26,28)? What excuse will you give for “peddling” (kapeleuo – i.e. to make profitable by misrepresentation, trickery, and deceit) the word of God (2 Cor 2:17)? How will you excuse your viewing of pornography? Will you blame it on an “addiction”or on its prevalence and acceptance by society (1 Cor 6:9,10,18)? How will you justify placing your trust in man and his schemes; in politicians (Jer 17:5)?
It is futile to think you can vindicate your rejection of some parts of Scripture simply because you could not make them consistent with the meaning you’ve placed on other parts.
How can you plead a desire for obedience to Scripture when all you have done is reinterpret passages in a sense more favorable to your natural lusts and theological prejudices? It will do you no good to object that the Bible teaches many things that go contrary to “science” and reason. What reason do you mean; your own carnal, human reason? Is it by this that you would judge divine revelation?
It is true there are many things in Scripture that are above human understanding and human reason – things such as the doctrine of the Trinity; the Virgin Birth; the resurrection; that Jesus Christ is both 100 percent God and 100 percent man; God’s sovereign election and man’s responsibility – but there is nothing that is against it.
All these things the Bible clearly teaches. Such excuses merely prove the testimony of Scripture; that until God opens the mind of understanding the Bible remains a sealed book (Is 29:11; 1 Cor 2:14). It is precisely at this point that the most learned theologian and scholar has no advantage over the most ignorant pagan; both are equally blind until God opens and illuminates their mind (1 Cor 1:20-25).
The great difficulty is that the truths of God are against mankind and we are so prejudiced in our own favor that we cannot, we will not see them to be right until God opens the understanding. Only a regenerate mind can say, “All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth” (Ps 25:10).
The doctrines and principles of the Bible may be explained ever so clearly and logically, but as long as they remain against us they will never seem to be consistent. As long as a person dislikes them, they will always appear to them to be unjust and incoherent, and they will always find excuses to reject and repudiate, no matter how shallow or frivolous, how scholarly and pious, or how pragmatic and justified those excuses may be, because the Bible would divorce them from the supreme object of their love – their idols of self and the world.
A third lesson to be observed from this parable is that all these excuses arose from a reluctance to fulfill their previous commitment to come to the dinner and a desire to evade blame for their refusal to come.
Their evasions simply betray the dislike and opposition they are trying to hide and reveal an unwillingness to take any responsibility for their refusal to go. They are trying to avoid incurring any guilt in the sight of their host and to justify their rejection. While outwardly professing a friendship to the one who invited them, they resort to the feeblest excuse to avoid being with him, even after they know he has gone to so much trouble to make things ready for them.
If they had any true affection for the one who invited them they would not have dodged their previous commitment with such frivolous excuses. Rather they would have been anticipating and looking forward to heeding the call to come. Their love for him would have caused them to drop all else and rearrange their priorities. If they loved devotion as much as their idols they would have never offered such poor excuses.
All their trivial subterfuges were just a cover for the true aversion and hostility that filled their hearts. They may have honored him with their lips, but their heart was far from him, so instead they make excuses thinking to avoid the blame for rejecting. Why else offer an excuse? Why not just come right out and say they did not want to come? The reasons given were excuses, not reasons. The excuses simply betray the opposition and hatred they attempt to hide. The unregenerate heart hates the light and will not come to the light, so rather than admit they hate God, people will conceal their guilt from themselves behind a screen of excuses.
God sees all the excuses invented by man for what they are (Is 29:15)– oppositions and hostilities toward Him as sovereign and law-giver. If God has required that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, that we repent and believe the Gospel on His terms, that we be holy as He is holy, to die to self and the world, to reject what is false and evil and cling to what is true and good, to set our minds on things above, to pray without ceasing, to be humble and forgiving, to be filled with the Spirit and to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us, to walk by faith and not by sight – if God has required these things of every person, and He has, then no one can excuse themselves from any part in them without repudiating the One who required them. All the blame rests on them.
There can be no excuse for rejecting the promises, commands, warnings, and doctrines of God’s word. All excuses only betray the hostility within your heart, and He has sworn that no one who excuses their unbelief would taste of His supper (Lk 14:24). I pray that all who read this will make no more excuses, but gladly come to His feast through Jesus Christ our Lord.