Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
There are numerous excuses we can make for not doing the will of God. Some might offer the crudest of reasons with a scornful laugh. Most of us, however, would try to aspire to more noble and reasonable excuses as to why we will not do what is so plainly right to do. In the text above a man rejected immediate obedience to the call of Christ to follow Him with the excuse of saying goodbye to his friends and family. The Master saw through this man, whose incomplete obedience remained on shaky ground. The line had been drawn in the sand by God and the man had to choose whether to follow or not. We have not clarified a call from God until there remains a “must” about it. As long as it seems like an option, then it is merely a matter of our taste or personal choice. Many things fit this category in life – I am not sure God cares about which socks I put on in the morning and He leaves the choice to me. But when He specifically says to do something, then I must obey and obey immediately and completely. Incomplete obedience is complete disobedience. Postponed obedience is immediate disobedience.
The phrase of “putting one’s hands to the plow,” is an idiomatic expression of taking on a project or some responsibility. The main subject in this passage is not special service for Christ, such as becoming a missionary or a pastor, or of taking on some specific assignment for Christ, such as a missionary assignment or a responsibility in a church. Though a secondary application can be made from this passage to those areas, the primary meaning and the main issue Christ was referring to was following Him as Savior and Lord. To enter into the Christian life or to carry on in the faith with regret in our heart for having done so in the first place undermines our progress. When feet are marching one way and our head is turned in the opposite direction we find it hard to progress. The one who trusts in Christ must commit himself wholly and fully to Christ. Nothing can be held back. It all must be surrendered and surrendered gladly. Our love for Christ is to conquer and subdue the love of everything and anything or any person on earth.
If it has been your heart’s experience to secretly treasure sin and secretly regret leaving that life in order to follow Christ, if only in the slightest degree, then you are carrying a needless burden of conflict within. To live the Christian life while looking back on the world is a very difficult and troubling thing. There is only one way forward, and that is to repent before God and be cleansed of your sin. Then pick up your cross, consider yourself to have died with Christ to sin and self, and follow Him with love in your heart for Him. Fix your hands to the plow for Christ and trust that He offers you the very best in all the universe. His death on the cross for you while you were still a sinner commends His love, and you can trust Him entirely with your life. If you are not sure how to pray such a prayer, just begin in earnest and God will guide you, for He desires you to experience His life more than you do.
Lord, open our eyes to see how fleeting this earth’s treasures really are. In You are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Amen.