The difference between a reason and an excuse should be obvious. If a person has a reason for his conduct or behavior, he will certainly use it, and legitimately. A person who gives a “reason” that is actually not a reason but an excuse, has a problem. I can find little difference–if any–between an excuse and a lie.
In fact, if a thing is presented as a “reason” when it’s not actually a reason, how else would you describe it? A reason is the ground, motive, or cause for which a thing is done. It gives an answer that actually justifies some action, belief, or event. On the other hand, an excuse, given ostensibly to explain the facts in a case, in reality hides the truth and so is merely a pretext or subterfuge.
If folks who are constantly giving excuses for their lack of participation knew how utterly foolish are some of their “reasons,” they would likely desist from their usage right away. Let me illustrate. These are a few of the more common excuses for people’s lack of involvement and particularly for their lack of attendance at the services of the church.
“I’ve just not felt very well lot lately.” This “reason” is one of the most commonly used. Actually this “reason” is given by some who are not very interested in the work of the church, but just don’t want to openly admit it. The person who uses this “reason” never uses it in regard to his work, or the Friday night lights, or his presence at the golf course. Shame! Do you not know the difference between a reason and an excuse? If the person who constantly uses this “reason” were sick every Thursday in the same way they are every Sunday, they would go see the doctor about it. Or if they felt bad every Tuesday evening they would want to know why. Now it is certainly so that some people–some older folks, some who are chronically ill, can’t be out. But to them–don’t you see?–the statement is a reason, not an excuse. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
“I’ve been real busy with my job lately.” I’ve seldom known a person who makes this excuse who didn’t have time to take off from his business for his golf, for his fishing, for a football game, the kids baseball game, or some other interest. We all have the same amount of time. It’s with its management that we encounter the difficulty. Let me say something to those who give business “reasons” for not attending or being otherwise involved in the work of the church. If you’re too busy to engage yourself in serving God– you’re too busy! If you’re too busy to attend the worship services–you’re too busy! You need to back off and take a look at where you’re headed. You’re not having trouble with your job, you’re having trouble with the world and it’s about time got your time-priorities straightened out. (Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 4:5)
“I have to take care of my family.” This is tantamount to saying, “I love my family so much that I don’t have time to serve God.” Listen to this: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38). Hear me carefully–the worst kind of child abuse is to bring a child into this word and give him little or no spiritual guidance. If you want to genuinely care for your family, what better thing than to take them to worship God? I don’t care what your child becomes, how popular he becomes, or how much money he makes, without God he has failed, miserably failed. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
“People there just aren’t friendly to us.” It’s one of the most oft used “reasons” for not attending. ‘Tis a foolish excuse. Don’t you see that in order to expect friendliness, you must yourself be friendly? Folks who give this “reason” very often run toward the door when the last “amen” is said, hit the parking lot, and speed off home or to the restaurant. Consider this: it’s hard to be friendly to folks who are running for the door. What do you expect? That they should trip you, run you down, and hug your neck? Let’s be serious. What kind of “reason” is that? (I John 4:7-12; Romans 12:19)
We better be careful that we don’t try to excuse ourselves with some “reason” that’s not really a real reason. Think it over.