I'd exercise more, but it's just too hot.
I'd read my Bible more, but I'm really into this good fiction novel right now.
I'd spend more time in prayer, but then I feel rushed to get everything else done.
I'd be more compassionate, but I fear people would take advantage of me.
Do you see it? "I would, but. . ." Nasty little critter, isn't it? Not only does it qualify our excuses, but it also justifies them in our minds. It's as if, by adding that little conjunction, we "excuse" ourselves from the tasks that need to be done. Well, it is hot. Or, yeah, I sure would like to finish that book. In a sense, we use that "but" to convince ourselves that it's okay to shirk our responsibilities. And the worst part is that we fall for this ploy over and over again. Isn't that frustrating?
Jesus dealt with his fair share of "buts." One parable, in particular, comes to mind. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. (Luke 14:16-20)
Just to prove to you how ridiculous our excuses can be, let's take a look at the ones offered here. The first guy said that he had bought a piece of land and needed to see it. Okay, forgive me for being blunt right now, but what kind of idiot buys a piece of property without seeing it first? Really, dude? That's the best you can come up with?
Unfortunately, guest #2 is no better. His excuse was that he bought five yoke of oxen and needed to go test them out. May I return to my original question? What kind of moron would buy oxen without trying them first? In our day, that would be like buying a used car without test driving it. Duh!
But, I must admit, #3 is my favorite. "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." Okay, guys, I know we wives may give you a hard time now and then, but you can't blame everything on us. Seriously? Why not take your wife with you to the supper? Don't you think she might enjoy a night out on the town instead of slaving away in the kitchen herself? Open mouth; insert foot!
This passage is comical yet sad. These men missed out on the chance of a lifetime because they convinced themselves that they had a reason to say, "no." How often do we do the same? Be careful with your "buts." They can get us into a lot of trouble. Instead, try using the word "therefore." It works like this:
I'd like to exercise more; therefore, I will get up earlier so that I can beat the heat.
I'd like to spend more time in the Bible; therefore, I will limit my other reading to one hour a day.
I'd like to spend more time in prayer; therefore, I will make every effort to organize my day so that I don't feel rushed and hectic.
I'd like to be more compassionate; therefore, I will find small ways to help those around me.
Do you see the difference? Instead of excusing ourselves from our tasks, we're empowering ourselves to do them. We're no longer making excuses; we're making a plan. Which do you think honors God more?