Don’t Look Back

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Jesus tells us “…..No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

This passage is commonly understood as referring to one who begins a work only to regret the decision, wishing to retreat from the work at hand.  He who does not count the cost and desires to take his hand off the plough (i.e. the work of God), forfeits his assurance that he belongs to the King.

While this is a reasonable exegesis of the passage and holds true in its application, there is another understanding, rooted in the agricultural environment in which the writers of the gospel lived that also contains an additional weighty application.

To a farmer, there is only one reason to look back once he puts his hand to the plough, and it isn’t to cease ploughing – it is to measure the quality and quantity of his work.  A farmer looks back to see if his rows are straight and how much of the field he’s ploughed.  Those of Jesus’ day would have immediately understood this given the agrarian nature of their society.

Looking back creates a problem, however, as ploughing straight rows requires looking forward at all times.  Any time a farmer looks back, he has taken his eye off the target, which is the end of the row.  This results in a poorly ploughed field that produces an inferior crop.

Along with this understanding, there are warnings here for the believer.  Who among us is not desirous to see the results of his efforts in the Kingdom?  We evangelize someone and say they were “saved” and move on, checking the box in the “persons saved” list.  But God is clear in scripture – we cannot measure His work, and any attempts to quantify the effects of “our” efforts is a dangerous step down the wrong path of thinking that one controls, or contributes to the work of God.

Instead, we are instructed to do as the farmer does when ploughing – look ahead to the end.  It’s simple really – by not looking back to measure the quality or quantity of his work, the farmer more than likely will plough straight and useful rows.

The Christian is called to do the same:  Read the word, evangelize the lost, encourage the brother, and obey all you are commanded.  And while you’re doing this, don’t take your eyes off the end goal in an attempt to see if you’ve had any effect.

Only two things can happen with this approach – you become vain if you see “good” results or you are discouraged if you don’t.  To that, let us all be reminded of what we’re told in Psalm 77:19 regarding the works of God:  Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. 

As God uses you, you will likely have no idea how He is doing so. Keep your eyes forward and plough straight rows.

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