“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’” …
You may have heard it said, if you want to know what you value most in life, take a look at your bank statement or your credit card bill. I suppose you could also learn a good deal about yourself by looking back at your calendar. Where have you chosen to go and who have you spent time with? What do the appointments you make and the commitments you keep say about the condition of your heart? Of course, there are things we have to do that we may not want to do, but in many ways, our lives are defined by the things we say “yes” to versus the things we say “no” to.
Jesus’ parable is about making excuses. In one sense, Jesus is talking about people who reject him because they care more about things in this world than the eternal things Jesus offers. People make excuses instead of opening their hearts to faith. Then again, I think Jesus also wants his followers to consider how often we make excuses to get out of doing things He asks us to do. In that sense, the parable calls us to examine our values and priorities. What comes first in your life? What matters most and takes precedence over everything else? If Jesus were to invite you to dinner, would you make excuses or would you drop everything and rearrange your schedule to make sure you were at that dinner?
It’s striking that the excuses each person makes in the parable sound like valid, legitimate reasons not to attend a banquet. These people have commitments. They are being responsible. They are busy doing good things and believe that their work and relationships matter more than going to a party. We might even agree with their decisions to reject the invitation, until we remember this banquet stands for eternal life and it’s God who sends out the invitations. Nothing in this life, not even family and career obligations, should matter more to us than our relationship with God. He must always come first. His invitations should always get top billing in our hearts. To be clear, God often invites us to care for our families, love our neighbors, work hard and be active in our communities. That is, we can honor God by doing the very things that often fill our calendars. But we need to be sure we are doing them to honor God and not as ways to look too busy or feel too important to join the banquet of eternal life.
Father in Heaven, You come first in my life. Forgive me for the times I make excuses for not putting You first. Loving You and honoring Jesus matter more to me than any other commitment I have made. Help me to live that way today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian