Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus used the plow analogy to express the commitment required of certain of His followers for a specific task. Not all would be suited for the challenge. He needed a few good men.
In verse 58 of Luke 9, Jesus told a prospective follower, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” The work to which they were being called was a road trip with few amenities.
In the next verse, Jesus called upon a man to follow Him to which the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” The Lord rebuked him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (v60) Jesus wasn’t being callous or rude, He was emphasizing the commitment involved for proclaiming the arrival of the kingdom of God.
Then in verse 61, we see the scenario that prompted the Lord’s response in our focus text. A man said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (v62)
Jesus was looking for a few good men who would faithfully proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God. Time was of the essence. Whoever took on this mission must be completely dedicated to that work and that work only.
Jesus already had twelve chosen disciples who had been empowered to proclaim the message of the kingdom of God. The Lord used the aforementioned criteria for adding a larger group of seventy-two men.
So, what does that mission have to do with you and me? Well, I’ll answer that in two ways. Christian service is both specialized and general. I’ll explain.
When you gave your life to Christ, you became His servant. We’re to approach all our work as if serving the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7) That’s the general sense of the Lord’s service. But specifically, we have all been given spiritual gifts that are to be used in His service. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
And in those areas in which we have been gifted to serve, much is expected. Commitment and faithfulness are involved. For example, in James 3:1 we read this instruction: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” And in Luke 12:48, Jesus exclaimed, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” In other words, don’t go jumping into a ministry for which you’re not suited. Wait for the Lord’s direction. Prayerfully ask for His leading in where and how you should serve, particularly concerning the big stuff.
Giving to your church or those in need, carrying meals to shut-ins, performing tasks for those who can’t help themselves, participating in church mission trips, helping the youth group or senior adults ministry, etc. As a Christian, you can and should serve freely and often in these ministries. But count the cost and weigh your decision for service that requires substantial life commitment. For example: becoming a pastor or an evangelist, or serving as a missionary in a foreign land or in the ghetto.
If you are genuinely saved and committed to Christ, you have a natural desire for Christian service. You probably have a big heart and a willingness to do all you can for the Lord. Because of that, it is easy for you to jump into ministries that are not in your best interest which can result in burnout.
God will equip you for anything He wants you to do. But I have seen too many Christians battered on the rocks of disappointment because they dove into something they weren’t ready or suited for. Remember, your spiritual gifts help determine where and how you should serve.
We, as preachers, are good at pushing the “whosoever will” button. It has been my observation it’s the same “whosoever wills” who volunteer almost every time. Thank God for those willing folks. But please, be careful not to get yourself into a ministry for which you’re not suited. It can lead to Christian Service burnout or cause you to become bitter toward the Lord’s servants. God doesn’t want you to do it all.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Spiritual Gifts for Dummies
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.