WILDERNESS: The Difference Between an Admission and a Confession


Exodus 32:21-24 (NIV)

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”


Why did Aaron lie? I wonder why Aaron didn’t say something like this to Moses:

“Moses, I am so sorry. I have sinned against God, and I have failed you as a leader. I caved in to the pressure of the people. It is not their fault. I should have known better. I am responsible for this failure. I have made a grave error. Please forgive me.”

That would have been a bonafide confession. Instead, Aaron made an admission with blame and an excuse. See the difference? To make a confession means to not only own the mistake or misstep but also to take responsibility for it by not qualifying it with blaming anyone else, making an excuse or otherwise justifying it.

This is such a fundamental issue for us. It goes all the way back to the very beginning. Remember the encounter between God and Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God. Upon being asked for an accounting we get this exchange:

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13)

Notice the responses of admission with blame. They did not confess their sin. I often wonder what might have happened had they done so. I think it’s not so much the sin that offends God as it is the refusal to come clean and confess it as sin. It’s the hiding, blaming, excuses, and self-deception that grieves the heart of God. That’s the difference between an admission and a confession. An admission says, “I did it, but it was not my fault.” A confession is simple honesty before God about what is true.

We confess our faith—Jesus Christ is Lord. And we confess our sins—I agree with you Father, that my fear of people led to my needing to please them by disobeying your command.

So why do we so readily opt for making an admission rather than a confession? Why do we need to make excuses and lay blame and divert responsibility? Short answer: our pride. There’s another way of saying pride. It’s called shame. The reason people carry pride is because they suffer with shame. It appears prideful to us, and even hardhearted, when a person can’t simply and humbly own their responsibility in a given situation. Instead they are compelled to offer justifications and thinly veiled excuses and reasons why or why not. They can’t bear the shame of admitting a mistake because they can’t separate their performance (or lack thereof) from their identity and worth as a person. All of this leads to a deadly and most deceptive sickness of the soul: self-righteousness. The essence of self-righteousness is the inability to confess it when you are wrong; opting instead for admissions like, “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

Self righteousness always leads to hiding, and most of the time to lying. Did you notice Aaron’s lie? Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Here’s the instant replay: And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. (v.4)

There’s an old saying in the south that seems apropos in this instance. “Tell the truth and let the Lord love you.” It brings to mind the good word from 1 John.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)


Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. Why do I resist simple confession? Why must I justify myself and make excuses and otherwise try to blame someone else? Grant me the freedom to simply confess my wrongs; without qualifications, even if others share in the blame. Show me the shame I carry and shine the light of your love upon it. In Jesus name, Amen.


Have you experienced this reality in other people—of the seeming inability to own responsibility for a failure or sin and to confess it without qualification? Have you struggled with it yourself?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt