Ignorance Is No Excuse
If you [claim ignorance and] say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs and examines the hearts and their motives? And does He not know it who guards your life and keeps your soul? And will He not repay [you and] every man according to his works?
Human beings may not do a lot of things well, but we excel at making excuses. One man observed accurately, “The prisons are full of people who insist they are innocent!” And whenever we do anything wrong, we quickly point to someone else to blame, or we describe a circumstance so we can say, “See, I couldn’t help it.”
God is incredibly gracious and forgiving, but He’s not blind. He’s not like a kindly old grandfather who lets His grandchildren run wild with impunity. God knows how much we know, and He considers our grasp of situations when He evaluates culpability for our failures. Each of us will give an account of our choices and actions. Each of us will stand before a just and gracious God while He evaluates our behavior, and we’ll be rewarded(or not) based on truth and justice. In many cases, pleas to be excused because of ignorance will be discarded because God will say, “I gave you a conscience, but you disregarded it. I gave you the Scriptures, but you didn’t read them. I gave you Christian friends, but you spent time with other people instead. I gave you My Spirit, but you didn’t listen.”
The day of reckoning for Christians will be an evaluation of our deeds and motives, not the judgement of heaven and hell. On the day of reckoning, each of us will give an account, and no excuse will work. All of us want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”(Matthew 25:21, 23)
What you get by reaching your destination is not nearly as important as what you will become by reaching your destination.
The context of hearing, “Well done” is in the parable of the talents. In this parable, Jesus tells us that everyone has been given gifts and abilities. He says that not all receive receive five talents. In other words, not everybody is multi- talented or incredibly gifted. Some of us may only receive two talents. And still others may only have a single thing they can do. Yet all of us, no matter how much or how little we feel we have are accountable to use it wisely for the kingdom of God.
I know in recent months with the pandemic, it’s been easy to find reasons to check out or drop out. National statistics says that about 50% of Christians have done just that with church attendance. Many reasons have been given such as “I don’t feel comfortable gathering in a group” or “I don’t like the changes or the way church is being done” or “I don’t like multi-services or outdoor services or livestream” and on and on the list goes. I realize that we are challenged with a lot of change and maybe there will be many permanent changes. We are faced with only one question. What will I do with what God has given me? Will it sit idle while I wait for the right moment when everything is working according to my preferences? Will I spend my time bemoaning the fact that some of the things I loved about church are no longer available? Will I choose to separate myself from other believers in any form unless it is in the form exactly like it used to be? Or will I choose my relationship with God and the people of God as the most important thing and ask God how my gifts and talents can be used in a pandemic world?
It is true that God is generous with His gifts. It is true that Christ paid our sin debt. It is true that eternal life is a gift from God. But it is also true that God expects a return and that’s what the parable of Matthew 25 is about. In that parable we find three examples. One is given five talents, another two, and the third only one. After giving them the talents, the Master went on a long trip. Upon returning, He called each of them to give an account of what they had done with what he had given them. The first, with the five talents had put them to work and had added five more talents to them. To him was said, “Well done, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many. Enter into the joy of the Master. The second one, with two talents presented himself to the Master. Even though he had less, he had also doubled his talents. To him was given the same words, “Well done, good and faithful servant….” Finally the third came before the Master, with his single talent. Hear his words(excuse):
“The one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a harsh and demanding man, reaping [the harvest] where you did not sow and gathering where you did not scatter seed. So I was afraid [to lose the talent], and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is your own.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked, lazy servant, you knew that I reap [the harvest] where I did not sow and gather where I did not scatter seed. Then you ought to have put my money with the bankers, and at my return I would have received my money back with interest. So take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away. And throw out the worthless servant into the outer darkness; in that place [of grief and torment] there will be weeping [over sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [over distress and anger].
One day each of us will stand before Christ. On that day we will give an account for how we spent our lives, what we did with our time and our talents. It won’t be like the judgement of the wicked whose lives will be fully revealed. Our past sins won’t be brought up against us for they are under the blood. Make no mistake, however that we won’t be held accountable for how we used our lives for the kingdom of God. And on that day just as the one-talent servant discovered, no reason and no excuse will be sufficient. What will you hear that day? Will you hear “Well done, you’ve been faithful” or will you hear “You wicked, lazy servant”?
If we have ever lived in a time that believers ought to be faithful, faithful in working, faithful in giving, faithful in adversity, and faithful in the midst of change, these are the days. If you’ve separated, sat down, waiting for everything to get back to “normal”, allowed your dissatisfaction with the way things are to cause you to cease connecting, fellowshipping, being actively involved in serving and giving, I urge you to make a change. Don’t wait until it’s convenient- it never will be. Choose today to invest back into the kingdom of God what God has gifted you with. When you stand before Christ you’ll be glad that you didn’t allow any excuse or reason to keep you from using your talent for Him.
Dr. John Thompson