No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the
What kind of harsh statement is this? And it seems at face value to
be very exclusive, too. How about unrealistic? Undoable?
Ridiculous? OK, maybe now we are getting carried away. But when you
read this, do you have a nagging question in the back of your mind? The
question for me is: "Then, who is ever fit for the Kingdom of God ?" Kingdom of God
Even in this multitasking world we live in, with every possible organisational gadget we can possibly manufacture, most people metaphorically, "Put their hands to the plough" and then look back, or leave the plough all together!! If what this means is a never failing faith, without doubt or regret, ever, then there might well be a new word for us all—denial.
However, as is always the case, we would do well to try to read the whole story, from Luke 9 for this week, as well as the whole story of the Gospel as it teaches us to journey on the way rather than believe in a set of rules that some human wishes to use to set their comfort zones. When we do both of those things we can see that the picture is bigger, as it almost always is. As in so many things in this life, we like to make this an either/or scenario. It's got to be one or the other. Can you say—Perspective?
But take a closer look at this text: instead of an “either/or,” Jesus is really positing a “both/and.” Notice that both of the poor souls that ask to go take care of other business are exclusive in their request as well. “Sure, I will follow you Lord, but first, let me go bury my father." And then another, "well sure I'll follow you Lord, would love to, but first let me go tell them good bye at home; I mean they are expecting me for dinner; it would be rude to just not show up!" But Jesus is about inclusion, our God is about inclusion.
In both cases, and in many cases in this world as well, and the church is not excluded, the answer is, "Yes, Lord, I will follow, I will pray, I will give, I will work, I will whatever, BUT FIRST, I need to pay off my boat; I need to find a job; I need to get my taxes done; I need to get the clothes washed. It is the "But First" that seems to be key here. Or we could say but at first I have to vilify those I disagree with and make money in doing so. But first I need to allow my greeg for material possessions and power be realised before I truly be with God and share the compassion Jesus taught us about.
Those who come to God and wish to follow the way Jesus lived probaly mean well. Those who wanted to follow Jesus seem to be telling Jesus, “to get on your train, I have to get off mine.” In a sense that is true, but this thinking makes it seem like two different journeys. It seems unlikely that we could live on the Christian journey at all if this were the truth.
The whole notion of setting one’s face to
seems to be a journey motif, harkening back to Elijah, with many prophetic
references. Setting your face toward Jerusalem is to be on a journey. But is
it one you must start only after all else in your life is finished? One
would hope not, or else we would never get started on it. You might well
wonder, what if these people had responded to Jesus, "I will follow you
AND I will go bury my father.” “I will follow you AND I will go and tell
those I love at home, about the journey I am going on as well.” Jerusalem
In some ways we are meant to expect no other response. Jesus tells us and shows us: loud and clear: “You can't compartmentalise following me, you can't do it when you get time, when you clear some space on your Google calendar, after the clothes are washed. This is a way of life, which means yes, the clothes must get washed, and the bills must get paid, and the kids must get fed, and the taxes must get paid, and you most likely have to keep those appointments in your IPhone or Android Phone.”
“BUT, follow me anyway; follow me while doing those things; follow me in a way that makes you do those things in a new way. Follow me forever: no ‘BUT
First’s;’ no ‘instead;’ no ‘YES AND’—not ‘either/or.’ Instead: ‘both/and.’” To do the ordinary extraordinarily well while making all of life a prayer. It is mysteriously in that sense when we understand that all of our concentration and focus, that which we lavish on details that really don’t matter, on so many specifics that we forget why we do in the first place, all of those distractions help us avoid the greater conversation that rises above all of that.
It's not about what you are doing or not doing; it is instead about what and who you are being. It is about what we finally put our hope and trust in every day, and all days. Following Jesus is something that we do every minute of the day. It doesn't mean not doing everything else, it means doing everything else, with your heart invested in God, through the power and witness of Jesus Christ.