Have you ever heard outrageous excuses? Ever made any? I’m sure I have, but mine are usually dull. For example, I have kept busy working at home long enough to make myself late for an activity that I don’t want to attend and then told myself, “I’ll be so late now that I might as well stay home.” Other people are more creative than I. In January 2012, CNBC reported on outrageous excuses for missing work. One employee called in to say he was too hot. A TV producer canceled a 6 p.m. newscast saying, “there was too much news–I wanted to wait until 11.” For being late to work one employee claims that a fox stole her car keys. One of the more creative ones I’ve heard is from the sluggard of Proverbs 22:13. He says,
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside;
I will be killed in the streets!”
The person making this outrageous claim is categorized, called a “sluggard.” This is a biblical label for one who practices laziness enough that it characterizes him. He doesn’t just take breaks; he is a lazy person. Laziness and irresponsibility are habits.
The Hebrew word for “streets” refers to an open space, such as a forum or town square. At the time that Proverbs was written, forums were located near the gate of a city. They are where markets and trials were held or where people were gathered for public announcements. In other words, this is a location within the city and where many people are present. It is the last place a lion would want to be, and the last place that the citizens and merchants would tolerate a lion’s presence.
In short, this proverb teaches that a lazy person will make excuses, lame excuses, to avoid work and responsibility.
Lack of desire is the real problem. The lazy person doesn’t want fulfill a responsibility. Neither does he want to be known as a lazy person, so he excuses himself to himself and others. He is like Esau, who rationalized the sale of his rich and magnificent birthright in exchange for a mere bowl of soup. He said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” (Gen. 25:32). About to die? Esau is a hunter. Hunters should be rough and tough and hard to bluff and used to hardships. Esau obviously had strength enough to have gotten himself home and over to Jacob’s cook fire. At home, other people would have been nearby. Would his parents have watch passively while he literally starved to death? Did he really mean by his excuse to imply that he thought Jacob so mean as to let him starve, and right there in front of Jacob, no less? No wonder the Bible says that Esau “despised” his birthright.
If you find yourself making lame excuses, examine what you are wanting to avoid. Choose to desire God’s will more than your comfort.
Put off irresponsibility and put on initiative. Do the difficult activity before other more pleasant tasks. Then the rest of the day is likely to flow easier and there will be nothing to incite excuse-making.
Parents: Do not tolerate excuses. Teach truth-speaking. Teach your children to do the most difficult task first.