We humans are a perplexing bunch, don’t you think? We can justify nearly anything we do. Sometimes it starts with the small stuff. Here’s an example:
I’m working at my computer in the middle of the afternoon when hunger pangs strike. I satisfy them with a brownie despite knowing that an apple would be a smarter food choice. “It’s okay,” I reassure myself, “I needed something sweet.” (Like, duh…a few too many brownies later, I’m frustrated at the bathroom scale for its ever-increasing numbers).
Sometimes the issues are much bigger…
A man sits in our dining room, explaining why he’s leaving his wife of 28 years. “I just need some time to myself,” he says. “I need to think, to sort things out.” (He was having an affair but didn’t realize that we knew about it. He was actually making the break with his wife so he could move in with his girlfriend).
Who are we kidding, anyway? And who was Saul kidding when he blatantly disobeyed God’s commands and then justified his behavior?
1 Samuel 15:1-15 tells the story of Saul fighting the Amalekites. God had issued his command: “Go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation – men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.” Saul went into battle, but rather than obeying implicitly, he captured the Amalekite king and spared the best of the sheep and the cattle. Then Samuel showed up and demanded an explanation.
“I have carried out the Lord’s command,” said Saul wearing a grin a mile wide (v. 13).
“Then what’s all the bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel asked.
“It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”
Did Saul actually think he could justify his disobedience and get away with it? I guess so. Sadly, it didn’t work. It doesn’t work for us either.
When God tells us to give to the needy, He’s not impressed with excuses such as, “Well, my kids’ sports activities cost so much that I didn’t have anything left to give.” When He tells us to get rid of questionable books or magazines, He’s not impressed with answers like, “But the fizzle left my marriage years ago. These stories replace the romance I don’t have in real life.” When He tells us to get involved with missions in North America or overseas, He’s less than excited when we respond, “Who, me? Uh, I don’t have the time right now.”
God wants our obedience, not our reasons for why we do life our own way. More on Monday.