Four old codgers were playing poker for money in the back of their local store. Suddenly, the sheriff walked in on them and said, “Gambling again, eh? This time I’m going to arrest you fellows just to teach you a lesson.”
That’s when the excuses started flying. One of the men said, “I wasn’t playing sheriff; I just dropped in to talk.” Another one said, “I wasn’t playing either, Sheriff; I was just visiting.” A third said, “I just came in to warm up by the stove.”
The fourth man sat quietly as all this went on and continued to hold his cards. He never once took his eyes off them. The sheriff looked at him and said with a smile, “Well, you certainly can’t deny that you’ve been playing cards.” The old man, still not looking up from his cards, answered that by saying in his slow drawl, “Now, Sheriff, who would I have been playing with?”
Oh, the excuses we make for our sins! We blame everyone from our parents to the government, when all the while the heart of the problem lies with us. Please understand that I’m not minimizing any sins that have been committed by your parents or your government, but also understand that there comes a time when you have to look in the mirror and take responsibility for your own sins. Face it, you have about as much of God as you want in your life.
You probably know Christ’s most famous parable, the one about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). But do you know the verse that marks the turning point of that story? It’s Luke 15:17, which says of the son:
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’” (N.K.J.V.)
Be sure not to miss those all important words: But when he came to himself. You see, the prodigal’s life didn’t change for the better until he conducted a personal evaluation and was sufficiently shocked by what he found. And notice that Jesus didn’t say that the young man came to a revelation about how his parents had raised him, or one about how others had done him wrong, or one about the ills of his society. No, he came to a revelation about himself. He thought, “I brought myself to this lowly state.”
I don’t know your life, but perhaps you, like the prodigal, need to come to yourself. Maybe you need to stop blaming others for your troubles and start admitting to your own role in creating your mess. Remember, excuses will only keep the status quo in tact and prevent you from returning to the blessings of the father’s house. (I could also say a lot here about the importance of confession and repentance, but I’ll leave that for another time.) Right now the first order of business is to get you to realize that you are the problem. Until that happens, you’ll never be ready for the next step.