When Moses’ name is mentioned, most of us likely think of a heroic, faithful leader. But that is not the Moses to which we are initially introduced. In Exodus 3:10 we learn that God met Moses at the burning bush and said, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” You would think a man who was identified as a hero of faith (Hebrews 11:23-28), a friend of God, (Exodus 33:11) and granted the right to see God’s “back” (Exodus 33:21-23) would be more than willing to commit to such an assignment. However, that was not the case. All Moses did in Exodus 3-4 was offer excuses in an attempt to wiggle his way out of God’s plan. Just look at the excuses he offered.
His first excuse cited his feelings of inferiority. In Exodus 3:11, Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses was in effect, saying, “I’m not important. I’m not significant. I’m not worthy. I’m not somebody that you really want to use.”
His second excuse cited his lack of knowledge. He said, in Exodus 3:13, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” In other words, Moses was saying, “I don’t know you well enough to be the one leading this operation. I’m not theologically advanced enough for this mission.”
After this, Moses offered his third excuse, which cited his fear of rejection. He said, “they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’” (Exodus 4:1). It is as if he were saying, “They won’t believe me. They’re not going to listen to me.”
Moses’ final excuse cited his lack of talent. He said, “I am not eloquent…, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). What Moses was really saying is, “I don’t have the ability. I lack the necessary skillset. I am fundamentally incapable of fulfilling this task.”
Often, we are not unlike Moses. We present all kinds of excuses for why we do not attend worship services, why we do not get involved in the ministries of the church, why we do not contribute our talents, skills, and resources to the work of the church, or why we refuse to participate in Christ’s mission of seeking and saving the lost. We have become expert excuse makers, and, as a result, we need to be reminded that the Bible does not speak favorably about excuses. Here are three truths about excuses that should impact the way we look at them.
The first truth about excuses is they stem from a lack of love. All excuses boil down to the same thing—a desire to avoid responsibility. In other words, we make excuses because we simply don’t want to do what’s being asked of us. That’s ultimately the point Moses reached. After offering all of his excuses, Moses finally said what he really thought in Exodus 4:13. He said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Moses, in effect, told God that he didn’t want to do what God was asking him to do, and, in doing so, Moses revealed to God that there were limitations to his love for Him because when you love someone, you are willing to do anything and everything for them. In other words, love doesn’t make excuses, and God is looking for disciples who won’t make excuses. Such is evident in the Greatest Command which instructs us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Jesus said the most important command is for us to love God, and when you love God with your entire being, there is nothing you won’t do for Him. So, if you’re an excuse maker, then you’re love for God may be lacking.
The second truth about excuses is they anger God. After Moses presented all of his excuses and blatantly asked God to find somebody else, we are told that “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses” (Exodus 4:14). The God who is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6) reached His boiling point with Moses because of Moses’ excuse making. This is interesting because it reveals how displeasing excuses are to God. On another occasion, God instructed Moses to speak to a rock in order to cause it to produce water, but Moses, out of his frustration with the children of Israel, chose to strike it instead. As a result of his disobedience to God’s instructions, Moses was informed that he would not get to enter the promised land (Numbers 20:10-12). Despite resulting in a great consequence, Moses’ disobedience did not result in the kindling of God’s anger. That just goes to show how great God’s disdain is for excuse making. Moses’ disobedience didn’t cause God’s anger to be kindled, but his excuses did. So, we need to be very wary of making excuses because we don’t want to ignite God’s wrath toward ourselves.
The final truth about excuses is they are unacceptable to God. Every time Moses offered an excuse, God eliminated it. For example, when Moses cited his feelings of inferiority, God responded by pointing to His superiority. When Moses cited his lack of knowledge, God responded by revealing His name to him. When Moses cited his fear of rejection, God responded by empowering him to perform miracles. And, when Moses cited his lack of talent, God provided him with a partner. From God’s repeated elimination of Moses’ excuses, we learn that He does not accept excuses. Many of Jesus’ parables illustrate this truth, as well. When the original invitees to the great banquet gave excuses for not attending, it angered the master, and, as a result, he invited other people who did not make excuses (Luke 14:16-24). The foolish virgins who were unprepared (Matthew 25:1-13), the one talent servant who failed to use his resource (Matthew 25:24-30), and the “goats” who failed to benevolently care for others (Matthew 25:31-46) all offered excuses to explain their failings, but their excuses were deemed unacceptable as evidenced by the punishment they incurred. Thus, the lesson we should glean from these examples is that no excuse will suffice when we stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment.
Based on these three truths about excuses, let us strive to be a people who make no more excuses.