Don’t Look Back

“Another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61-62).

In the above passage of Scripture, during His earthly ministry, many people were attracted to Jesus. The miracles He performed, of which many were personal in nature, in healing and helping those who were sick and troubled, along with His genuine care and concern for them, drew people to want a close relationship with Him. Some felt the desire to become a disciple, to follow Him, along with the apostles, and be part of His work. Jesus, however, was honest and up front with them about the demands of discipleship. One said he would follow Jesus wherever He went, but Jesus asked if he was willing to make the sacrifices such demanded (9:57-58). Jesus asked another to follow Him, but the response was the person needed to wait for an indefinite period of time (9:59-60). A third person volunteered to follow Jesus, but requested stay at home for a while, indicating a reluctance to make such a commitment (9:61-62). On these three, one person commented, “The first case is that of inconsiderate impulse, the second that of conflicting duties, the third that of a divided mind.”

Needless to say, these three represent what many who want the blessings of the kingdom actually feel regarding commitment to the kingdom. Jesus illustrates what can happen when this is the case by saying one cannot do the work of plowing by looking back, instead of being focused on the plowing itself. The one who isn’t focused on plowing, on looking at the work at hand, will go crooked, even though the goal is to plow straight furrows. Jesus is emphasizing there is no place in the kingdom for those who look back when they should be looking forward. Paul reminded the congregation in Philippi of this in his own life when he said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

When we accept the call of the gospel, we commit ourselves to faithful living in Christ, to submission to the will of God. It is each individual’s choice as to whether they will follow Christ, or allow the siren song of the world to allure them to return back to the desires of the flesh, to the habits of life apart from Christ. When Jesus said a person is not fit for the kingdom, the term means not profitable, not proper or useful. One is not able to be the person God wants one to be. In other words, one is not able to live the life God has called us to live. The implications for eternity in such a condition are significant. The Hebrew writer uses the term fit as useful to refer to the Christian who has been blessed of God and bears fruit; to do otherwise, however, is to prove to be worthless and close to being cursed by God (Heb. 6:7-8). Those who obey the gospel but do not live by the gospel place themselves in a precarious condition with God!

How can one do this, to no longer be fit for the kingdom? Our Lord said we are to put the kingdom of God and His righteousness first in life (Matt. 6:33), but what does it say when we let anything, and everything take precedence over the kingdom? The Hebrew writer emphasizes one is not to forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:25), but what does it say when one can do anything they want except assemble? Jesus said we bring glory to God when we bear much fruit in our lives for Him, and that in doing so we prove ourselves His disciples (John 15:8). What does it say when we can use our talents and time for any worldly activity or pursuit, but not for the spiritual? Paul spoke of how generous one should be in giving (2 Cor. 8:3-5), but what does it say when we can use our resources for anything we desire, but not return to the Lord from the rich blessings He has offered us? One can proclaim one’s faith in Christ, but does one’s life show him or her looking back to the world, to worldly pursuits and desires? In doing so, is one really being useful to God and His kingdom?

Wearing the name Christian means we are imitators of Christ, not the world around us. God offers us so much, for today and especially for eternity; why look back, long for, and engage in what will not profit for eternal life? It betrays where our affections truly are. Everyone has the choice on how to live, but not all choices are valid for living spiritually and eternally. May each of us make sure we are looking ahead and not back. Plow straight furrows, walk the straight and narrow path, and know what lies ahead. Anything else is but a delusion, and no matter how much one may want such to be true, it isn’t. May our lives be lived to glorify God, and not to allow the things of the past distract us from what really matters.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”