In Luke 14:16-24, an invitation to a super-awesome banquet has gone out to many. This likely represents the “calling” of God – the Lord inviting others to share in His kingdom (fellowship with Him, eternal glory, an eternal inheritance, eternal life) while, at the same time, summoning them to partake in His holiness and to obey Him even when it is difficult.
In the parable, three different people make excuses for spurning the invitation. The first two refer to business matters as the reason why they do not cherish the calling. For one, it is the purchase of a field, and, for the other, it is the acquisition of five yoke of oxen. The “double dose” here of pretty much the same kind of excuse should stand out to us. It should show that it is not only doubly-common but possibly even doubly-dangerous to choose material possessions, the accumulation of wealth, or the love of money over God.
A third excuse comes from another who says, “I have married a wife.” One might argue that this actually has at least some legitimacy according to the Law of Moses. For example, we find the following in Deuteronomy 24:5 – “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.” Therefore, it might be that the man holds up this law so that he may get out of attending the banquet. If this is the case, it is very troubling indeed. It warns us that we too might misuse the Word of God to try to justify dishonoring the invitation. For example, it seems as if his hearers twisted Paul’s teaching about God’s magnificent grace as a license to do what they wanted to do and “sin all the more” (Rom. 3:8; 6:1-2). Let us not be like them.
The third again says, “I have married a wife.” Essentially, he uses his family as an excuse. I grieve at all of the times in my life in which I have done something like this. I have said, “My wife and the kids are too tired tonight,” but, in reality, I just did not want to go. I have also shamefully filled my family’s schedule with “must-attend” activities so that I can justify the emptying of that same agenda of any commitments to God or to His people.
One has said, “The greatest threat to ‘the best’ is often ‘the second best.’” Another observes, “As Satan escalates over time his attempts to get Job to dishonor the Lord (going from loss of wealth to death of children to loathsome sores), the devil finally reaches the most fierce attack at the end: the tempting words from Job’s own wife to curse God and die.” Even more, two of the three potential disciples described in Luke 9:57-62 are unable to immediately and fully commit to Christ due to family connections.
Additionally, as we progress from one excuse to the next, there is something distressing which we notice. The first man says, “I must go” (Luke 14:18). His business feels to him like an inescapable obligation. Its needs right now are just too important. They cannot be ignored. In contrast, the second says, “I go” (Luke 14:19). Some translations say, “I am going.” A decision has been made. He is stubborn, and there is no sense in even trying to change his mind. Then, there is the third. He simply says, “I cannot come” (Luke 14:20). In his opinion, he is at a point where it is absolutely impossible for him to ever accept the invitation. This is the tragic condition of the completely crushed spirit or the diamond-hard heart. Hence, this range of excuses depicts the stages of the sad fall away from God. In contrast, resolve in your heart to never begin that treacherous, soul-threatening fall.
In closing, one might say to himself, “I think that the family man – the third one mentioned – has a little better excuse than the other two.” Another might argue, “Nah – he does not even politely ask, ‘Please may I be excused.’ He just says, ‘I’m not coming.’ At least the other two are nice about it – asking permission.” However, in Verse 18, Jesus says they “all alike” (apo mia) began to make excuses. This is an all-inclusive Greek saying meant to unite all of the excuses under one big umbrella. I believe that the New King James Version, in Romans 1:25, encapsulates this idea so well: “(They) exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Notice that it is “THE lie” (not multiple lies). It’s all the same. They all thought that some other invitation was better than the one offered by God. A creature was better than the Creator. As a result, in the parable, all three men, no matter the excuse, all receive the same condemnation from the master of the house: “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet” (Luke 14:24).