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October 18, 2014, 9:00 PM

Is it a Reason or an Excuse?



When I was in the navy, my work usually took me below the waterline onboard ship. In other words, I worked in the bottom of the ship and any massive casualty could result in rapid flooding where I worked and I would drown. We constantly trained on how to fight fires, massive leaks, battle damage…etc. One of our main defenses were certain doors that were to always remain latched. They were designed to be water tight barriers in case of flooding. This picture is the USS New Orleans after the front had been literally sheared completely off by torpedoes. Yet the ship still floated and actually was still functional enough and many people survived. Why? Yes, those watertight doors.

People who forgot and left those doors open (some ships did sink because of that) could be severely reprimanded. There was always an excuse. Someone was coming right back or something else. To them it was a good reason. But there was no good reason when 50,000 tons and hundreds of lives were at stake. Only excuses.

But what is the difference between a reason and excuse? Boiled down to it's basics, a reason acknowledges responsibility, an excuse tries to avoid it.

In other words, if I say I will teach a class on Sunday morning, but have problems showing up on time, there are consequences. If I acknowledge the problem and the reason, such as “I am feeling really weak right now,” and then address the problem by an action, such as getting up earlier, or enlisting help to teach the class if I need to, then it is not an excuse. I care and I am going to fix it, however I can.

But, if I just say something like, “Oh, it’s just how I am on Sunday mornings,” or, “Oh, it’s just my disability flaring up” and never make an effort to fix the problem because it’s no big deal or it’s not my fault then I am using an excuse. The reason may be understandable. But the truth is, I could fix the problem, it's just not a priority. There are consequences for that. I may lose class members. I may lose any reputation that I have had in the church. People may get the impression  that I don’t care about them very much, because I don’t care about whether they have a teacher or not.

There are plenty of examples of this in the Bible.

Adam and Eve made excuses…

Genesis 3:11-13
11  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
12  The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
13  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Moses also made excuses…

Exodus 4:10-14
10  But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
11  Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
12  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
13  But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
14  Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

Jesus taught parables about it…

Luke 14:16-24
16  But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.
17  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.’
18  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.’
19  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’
20  And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
21  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.’
22  And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’
23  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.
24  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

Now we all have our character flaws and there may be justifiable reasons why we have difficulties. But, if I want true Godly growth, I have to acknowledge those times, when I am tempted to use an excuse to not take responsibility and then take it to God and fix them as His will sees fit, not mine.

For me, one important one has to do with getting into shape. There has been multiple reasons why I haven’t exercised the last 5 years. Very good reasons. No one could accuse me of not trying…except God. Were there days when I could have gotten out on my bike and didn’t? Yes. Were there pizzas that I didn’t need an extra slice of? Yes. The truth is, I could have done better. And, if I want to spend the rest of my shortened life on the couch until my heart checks out and leaves my wife without a husband and my daughter without  a father, then so be it. The truth is, there aren't many people who would say I am lazy. But, knowing I can do better, if I am honest about it, I owe it to them to do better and not give up. I owe it to my church. I owe it to God, especially. God can do whatever I need from Him until my job here is done. We are all at different places at different times and may be having a hard time, for a good reason

But people depend on you too! They need you to not make excuses. They need to see you take problems to God and continually grow through them. God will do this. He wants to do this. He wants to make you like a ship; unsinkable…unstoppable. Do you have something in your way that needs work. Make it a priority and fix it. He will be glorified when you take reasons for excuses and make them reasons for growth.


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