We love excuses. Sometimes they're simply lies to try and hide our crimes. Sometimes we really think that they're genuine reasons that shift the blame from us onto the unavoidable circumstances of our lives. Most of the time they're delivered with a degree of self-righteous indignation. "How could you possibly accuse me of such a thing!"
I was reading what I think is one of the funniest lines in the Bible this morning. Only it's not really funny at all. Because it's a pathetic attempt by a man charged with caring for God's people, to explain why he has let them commit idolatry just days after saying, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” (Exodus 24:7)
Hot on the heals of that promise, Moses nips back up the mountain to get a few further instructions from God. The problem is that he's taking his time. So the impatient people, with the collaboration of Aaron, Moses' brother, make a golden calf and worship it in the traditional human way, in drunken song and sex.
When Moses comes down the mountain and sees the rave in full swing he confronts his brother as to why he let this happen. What follows is one of the worst excuses ever recorded!
“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:22-24)
First, the problem isn't me, it's the people. They're prone to evil. Second, I didn't make the calf. It made its self!
That's not exactly what happened. In fact Aaron had won the "calf" of the week in the Great Idolatry Throw Down.
"He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool." (Exodus 32:4)
My problem is that as I condemn Aaron and laugh at the blatant way that he tries to get himself off the hook, I condemn myself. Because I do just the same thing.
I make excuses which sound good in my head, but stupid when they come out of my mouth! Excuses about being tired or busy or under pressure (these are all ridiculous in my case because I run my own diary). Excuses about how it might have sounded like I was angry and aggressive, but I didn't actually say anything offensive. Excuses about how I would be more patient, if people did what I asked! (This is stupid, because if they did what I asked, I wouldn't need to be patient!)
Excuses that are all based on the same theme: I've not done anything wrong.
It is astounding how much time we spend justifying ourselves. If we listened to our excuses in any single day we'd probably be left thinking that it's incredible that Jesus found anything that he had to die for in a person who has clearly been the victim of others unreasonable behaviour.
So why not try listening to yourself today and see how many times you make an excuse for something you've done or not done. Or if you really want to know who much you justify yourself, ask your friends and family members to point out when you make excuses.