Excuses—How Does Jehovah View Them?
“THE woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate,” said the man. “The serpent—it deceived me and so I ate,” responded the woman. Those words, spoken to God by our first human parents, Adam and Eve, marked the beginning of mankind’s long history of making excuses.—Gen. 3:12, 13.
Jehovah’s judgment upon Adam and Eve for their willful disobedience made it apparent that their excuses were not acceptable to him. (Gen. 3:16-19) Are we to conclude, then, that all excuses are unacceptable to Jehovah? Or does he accept some excuses as valid? If so, how can we determine the difference? To answer, let us first consider the definition of an excuse.
An excuse is a reason given in order to explain why something has been done, has not been done, or will not be done. An excuse may be a valid explanation for a failing and may constitute a genuine apology that provides grounds for leniency or forgiveness. However, as was true in the case of Adam and Eve, an excuse may also be a pretext, a false reason put forth to cloak the real one. Since excuses are often of that nature, they are commonly viewed with suspicion.
When making excuses—especially if they relate to our service to God—we must be careful to avoid ‘deceiving ourselves with false reasoning.’ (Jas. 1:22) Let us, therefore, consider some Bible examples and principles that will help us to “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—Eph. 5:10.
What God Expects Us to Do
In God’s Word we find specific commands that we as Jehovah’s people need to obey. For instance, Christ’s commission to “go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations” is a command that still applies to all true followers of Christ. (Matt. 28:19, 20) In fact, fulfilling that command is so important that the apostle Paul stated: “Woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”—1 Cor. 9:16.
Nevertheless, some who have been studying the Bible with us for a long time still shy away from preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) Others who formerly shared in the preaching work have stopped doing so. What reasons are sometimes given by those who do not share in the preaching work? How did Jehovah react to those who hesitated to obey his specific commands in the past?
Excuses That Are Not Acceptable to God
“It is too difficult.” Especially for those who are timid by nature, it may seem that sharing in the preaching work is just too difficult. Consider, though, what can be learned from the example of Jonah. He received an assignment that he found extremely difficult—Jehovah told him to declare Nineveh’s impending doom. It is not hard to see why Jonah found it daunting to carry out that task. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the Assyrians had the reputation of being very cruel. Jonah may have wondered: ‘How will I fare among those people? What will they do to me?’ Before long, he ran away. Yet, Jehovah did not accept Jonah’s excuse. Instead, Jehovah again assigned him to preach to the Ninevites. This time, Jonah courageously fulfilled his assignment, and Jehovah blessed the outcome.—Jonah 1:1-3; 3:3, 4, 10.
If you think that the assignment to preach the good news is too difficult for you, remember that “all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) You can be sure that Jehovah will strengthen you when you keep on asking him for his help and that he will bless you when you muster up the courage to carry out your ministry.—Luke 11:9-13.
“I do not want to.” What can you do if you lack the heartfelt desire to carry out your Christian ministry? Keep in mind that Jehovah can act within you and affect your desires. Paul stated: “God is the one that, for the sake of his good pleasure, is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act.” (Phil. 2:13) Hence, you can ask Jehovah to make you want to do his will. King David did just that. He entreated Jehovah: “Make me walk in your truth.” (Ps. 25:4, 5) You can do the same by earnestly praying that Jehovah will move you to want to do what is pleasing to him.
Admittedly, when we are tired or discouraged, we may at times have to force ourselves to attend a meeting at the Kingdom Hall or to share in the ministry. If that is the case, should we then conclude that we do not truly love Jehovah? Not at all. Faithful servants of God in the past also had to strive hard to do God’s will. For instance, Paul stated that he ‘pummeled his body,’ as it were, so that he would obey God’s commands. (1 Cor. 9:26, 27) So even when we have to force ourselves to carry out the ministry, we can be sure that we will be blessed by Jehovah. Why? Because we compel ourselves to do God’s will for the proper reason—out of love for Jehovah. By doing so, we provide an answer to Satan’s claim that God’s servants would deny Him if they were put to the test.—Job 2:4.
“I am too busy.” If you do not share in the ministry because you feel that you are too busy, it is critically important that you reconsider your priorities. “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom,” Jesus stated. (Matt. 6:33) To follow that guiding principle, you may need to simplify your lifestyle or take time away from entertainment and use it for the ministry. Of course, entertainment and other personal pursuits have their place, but they are not a valid excuse for neglecting the ministry. A servant of God reserves the first place in his life for Kingdom interests.
“I am not good enough.” You may feel that you are not qualified to be a minister of the good news. Some faithful servants of Jehovah in Bible times felt that they were not good enough to handle tasks that Jehovah assigned to them. Take Moses as an example. When he received a specific commission from Jehovah, Moses said: “Excuse me, Jehovah, but I am not a fluent speaker, neither since yesterday nor since before that nor since your speaking to your servant, for I am slow of mouth and slow of tongue.” Although Jehovah reassured him, Moses replied: “Excuse me, Jehovah, but send, please, by the hand of the one whom you are going to send.” (Ex. 4:10-13) What was Jehovah’s reaction?
Jehovah did not exempt Moses from carrying out the assignment. However, Jehovah did appoint Aaron to assist Moses in handling the task. (Ex. 4:14-17) Moreover, in the years that followed, Jehovah stood by Moses and provided him with whatever he needed to succeed in fulfilling his God-given assignments. Today, you can be confident that Jehovah will move experienced fellow believers to help you too in carrying out your ministry. Above all, God’s Word assures us that Jehovah will qualify us for the work he has commanded us to do.—2 Cor. 3:5; see the box “The Happiest Years of My Life.”
“Someone hurt my feelings.” Some stop sharing in the ministry or attending congregation meetings because of hurt feelings, reasoning that Jehovah will surely accept this excuse for their spiritual inactivity. While it is understandable that we are upset when someone hurts our feelings, is it really a valid excuse to stop sharing in Christian activities? Paul and his fellow believer Barnabas may have had hurt feelings after a disagreement between them led to “a sharp burst of anger.” (Acts 15:39) But did either of them quit sharing in the ministry on account of it? By no means!
Similarly, when you have been hurt by a fellow believer, keep in mind that your enemy is not your imperfect Christian brother but Satan, who wants to devour you. The Devil will not succeed, though, if you “take your stand against him, solid in the faith.” (1 Pet. 5:8, 9; Gal. 5:15) If you have such faith, you will by no means “come to disappointment.”—Rom. 9:33.
Limited in How Much We Can Do
From this sampling of excuses, it becomes evident that there are no valid Scriptural excuses for not carrying out Jehovah’s specific commands, including the commission to preach the good news. Nonetheless, we may have genuine reasons for being limited in the extent to which we carry out our ministry. Other Scriptural responsibilities may reduce the amount of time that we can set aside for the preaching work. Also, occasionally we may truly be too tired or too sick to do as much as we would like to do in Jehovah’s service. However, God’s Word assures us that Jehovah knows our heartfelt desire and takes into account our limitations.—Ps. 103:14; 2 Cor. 8:12.
Therefore, we need to be careful not to judge ourselves or others harshly in these matters. The apostle Paul wrote: “Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls.” (Rom. 14:4) Rather than comparing our situation with that of others, we should remember that “each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12; Gal. 6:4, 5) When we approach Jehovah in prayer and present our excuses to him, each of us wants to do so with “an honest conscience.”—Heb. 13:18.
Why Serving Jehovah Gives Us Joy
All of us can serve Jehovah with heartfelt joy because his requirements—no matter what our circumstances in life may be—are always reasonable and reachable. Why can we say so?
God’s Word states: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.” (Prov. 3:27) What did you note in this proverb regarding God’s requirements? Jehovah does not command you to strive to equal the power that may be in your brother’s hand but to serve Him with what is “in the power of your hand.” Yes, each of us—no matter how weak or how strong the power of our hand may be—can wholeheartedly serve Jehovah.—Luke 10:27; Col. 3:23.
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“The Happiest Years of My Life”
Even if we have serious physical or emotional limitations, we should not hastily conclude that these will prevent us from having a full share in the ministry. To illustrate, consider what happened to Ernest, a Christian brother in Canada.
Ernest had a speech impediment and was very shy. After he suffered a serious back injury, he had to give up his job as a construction worker. Although disabled, his new circumstances did allow him to spend more time in the ministry. The encouragement presented at congregation meetings to auxiliary pioneer tugged at his heart. However, he did not feel qualified for that type of ministry.
To prove to himself that auxiliary pioneering was beyond his ability, he applied to serve as an auxiliary pioneer for one month. Much to his surprise, he was able to complete the assignment successfully. Then he thought to himself, ‘I know I could never do it again.’ To prove his point, he applied for a second month—and again, he accomplished the task.
Ernest served as an auxiliary pioneer for a year, but he said, “I know for sure I could never be a regular pioneer.” Again, to prove his point, he applied for regular pioneer service. He surprised himself when he was able to complete his first year of regular pioneering. He decided to continue and was blessed with the joy of serving as a regular pioneer for two years, until complications from his injury took his life. However, before his death, he often told visitors with tears in his eyes, “Those years of serving Jehovah as a pioneer were the happiest years of my life.”
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We can overcome any hurdles that may keep us from the ministry
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Jehovah is pleased when we serve him whole-souled by doing all that our circumstances allow