The project isn’t finished. You haven’t done what you promised. You cheated on your diet. You took a sick day to go to a ball game. Now your boss/spouse/teacher/doctor is standing in front of you, hands on hips, waiting for an answer. No, “the dog ate my homework” doesn’t cut it anymore. But you might find inspiration from a handful of excuses we find in the Bible. Those old-timers sure knew how to weasel their way out of responsibility.
- Genesis 3:12--Passing the Blame
It didn’t take long for humanity to invent the excuse. This might pre-date the discovery of fire or the wheel. In the Garden of Eden, the Lord calls Adam to account for his disobedience, taking a bite of the forbidden fruit. Thinking quickly, the man does what billions of red-blooded males have done ever since—he blames his wife. “The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree.” In the process, he not only deflects the blame to his significant other, but he also holds the Lord responsible for creating Eve in the first place! Adam gets double points for this.
- Genesis 3:13--The Devil Made Me Do It
Eve was no slouch in the excuse-making department herself. When Adam dumped the blame on her, she looked around for another scapegoat—a scapesnake, as it turned out. “The serpent deceived me—and I ate.” And ever since, we’ve been blaming our misdeeds on tempters of various sorts. Sometimes we convince ourselves that resistance is futile. It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.
- Genesis 29:26—It’s Just Our Way
Laban was a trickster with two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob was a traveler who quickly fell head-over-sandals in love with Rachel—so he agreed to work seven years to win her hand in marriage. After the appointed time, Laban threw a big wedding and Jacob (possibly tipsy) enjoyed an intimate wedding night with his veiled bride. As the Bible coyly puts it, “When morning came, there was Leah!”
Jacob had married the wrong daughter.
Laban’s excuse: “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.” He agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel too, but he’d have to work seven more years.
And you though your family was dysfunctional.
- Exodus 32:24—It Just Happened
At one of the most serious moments of biblical history, Aaron came up with an excuse that’s downright laughable. After meeting with the Lord on Mount Sinai, Moses came down to find the Israelites cavorting around an idol, a golden calf. He berated his brother, Aaron, who had overseen the making of this false god.
Caught gold-handed, what could Aaron say? Well, the people asked him to do this and even donated their jewelry, he explained. “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
So when your kid says, “The window broke by itself,” or when someone tells the insurance company, “The other car came out of nowhere,” or when you say, “How did that video game get on my computer when I’m supposed to be working?”--there’s a biblical precedent. It’s certainly not your fault.
- Matthew 25:24-25—Afraid of Failure
Jesus told a parable about three servants who were given sums of money while their master was away. Two servants invested the money and doubled it, proudly presenting the proceeds to their master upon his return. But the third servant buried his money in the ground and offered it back intact (though probably dusty). His explanation: “I knew you were a hard man . . . So I was afraid . . . Here is what belongs to you.”
The master scolded him for not putting these resources to good use, but as a result underachievers throughout history have had a go-to excuse.
- Luke 2:49—A Higher Calling
We’ll tread lightly here, since the excuse-maker is Jesus himself . . . as a 12-year-old boy. He accompanied his parents on a trip to Jerusalem with other family and friends, but he got wrapped up in discussions with rabbis and he missed the bus home. (Well, it was a caravan.) Mary and Joseph assumed he was with friends, so it took a day to realize they had left without him. Worried, they rushed back to the big city.
When they found Jesus in the Temple, Mary gave him a piece of her mind. “Son, why have you treated us like this?”
The young Messiah defused their anger by appealing to his unique identity and calling: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” What can a parent say to that?
A warning to kids today: If you use this excuse, you’d better really have a divine calling.
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