“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 9.62
I am from the generation that they call “Millennials” or “Generation Y”. We have all heard the hype: we are the kids who do not want to grow up. We are the trophy children who validate our parents by our success. We all believe that we are special and deserve to get high grades just because we tried, and it only matters that we “give it our best”, not necessarily that we do well. Jean Twenge calls us “Generation Me”: the world revolves around me, we are narcissistic and therefore highly esteem confidence and tolerance.
Is it all true? I have not done research or surveys to document the validity of said observations but I can say from my life experience and the relationships that I have, it sounds pretty accurate to me.
There is an abundance of reasons why we are the way we are: the Industrial Revolution, the internet, normal worldview evolution. But I am not interested in analyzing why we are the way that we are. I want to see what Jesus has to say about it.
If we are constantly looking for something bigger and better, if success is our god, if comfort is our standard and if trials throw us into a tail spin, we are in a sad position to live a life of righteousness bringing glory to the name of Jesus Christ. How good is your work ethic? Jesus said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom.
What does looking back mean in relation to faith? It means valuing something other than God. It means giving up when the going gets tough. Our parents’ generation valued Church, community and God such that they went to Church three times a week – “Whenever the church doors were open” they were there. My generation, if we are having an emotional day stay home to watch TV. “I’ll go to church when I feel like it”, because it is about me and not about God. I took a nap on Sunday and overslept right into evening service.
The Old Testament paints a vivid picture of God’s position on partial commitment:
“Then the two men said to Lot, ‘Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.’ Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, ‘Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.’ But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting. When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away’…Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
I have always imagined the family running away from the cities and mid-stride Lot’s wife just glanced over her shoulder. I don’t know if that is accurate, but however it happened – the simple act of looking back at the city merited her death.
Jesus said that there are four ways to respond to Gospel Truth. One person cannot hear the truth at all. Another person hears the truth and it sounds good and they appear to receive it, but he desires to live a worldly life – money, success, pleasures, etc. and therefore is not saved. The third person hears and welcomes the Truth, but when a trial comes he does not trust God but gives in to despair and is not saved. The last person gives his life over to God and fully values eternal life above worldly life and does not fall away in times of trial; and therefore is saved (Matt 13). And his statement that one who looks back after he was set to the task not being fit for the kingdom came in response to someone simply saying “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home” (Luke 9.61).
Is this life about you? Or is it about honoring God? Do you leave a church when you don’t like something, or do you stick it out in submission to the leadership? Do you commit to serve regularly? Or do you show up at church when you feel good and don’t have other plans? Do you tire of doing good and dream about your old lifestyle? Do you miss and long for “the good old days” or do you see and value God at work all around you, even in the hard times? Does your love for God dictate your daily activities or is faith a hobby, insurance for eternity? Do you abandon your responsibilities during a midlife crisis? Do you leave your wife because you want to have fun, or you find it easier to not work it out? Or do commit and honor God by keeping the covenants that you have made to Him? God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness. Let us set our hands to the plow and not look back.