Bible Question:

In Luke 9:62, does this verse refer to believers who are not fit for service in the kingdom of God? Does looking back represent not fully following Christ and decreasing your role/responsibility (service) in the Kingdom of God?

Bible Answer:

Luke 9:62 records words that were spoken by Jesus, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” These are serious words. They are spoken at the end of several discussions Jesus had with three of His disciples. Apparently each disciple first told Jesus that they would follow Him (Luke 9:57-61). Jesus told the first one that He did not have the physical comforts of life. He told the second to forget about the urgent things of this world and his reply to the third one was about looking back at the things of this world.

And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (NASB) Luke 9:57-62

He is talking about a farmer using a plow on a field. The man put his hand to the plow to start plowing. The goal of the farmer is to make straight rows in the earth. He does this by looking at a distant object. Jesus creates a picture of a farmer who rather than looking straight ahead at a distant object is constantly looking back at things. The Greek words for “looking behind” have the picture of constantly, continually looking back at things. The result is crooked and curved rows in the earth – a mess!

The Message

Jesus’ message is “follow Me” and do not let the things of this world get in the way. We are too easily distracted by the urgent things of this life, our physical comforts, and our material desires. There is an old story about a farmer’s son who wanted to plow his father’s field. The father eventually agreed to let him try one day and told his son to look straight ahead at a far away object while he was plowing. This would result in straight rows in the earth. His son said he understood and so the father left. After awhile the farmer came back to see how his son was doing only to find that the rows were not straight but curved and crooked. So he walked out to his son and asked what had happened. The farmer eventually discovered that his son kept looking at a cow in the field. His eyes were distracted. This is a picture of our relationship with Jesus. True followers of Jesus constantly, continually fix their eyes on Him and keep them there through the urgent, the tragic, and in spite of the desire for wealth, comforts and acceptance in this life. Paul, the apostle, illustrates the message with this comment about a Christian who was working with him.

“. . . for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica”

There is also another danger among Christians of fixing our eyes on our past failings. God encourages us to forget our past and press on (Phili. 3:13). Jesus wants us to move forward in total commitment to Him.

Conclusion:

Yes, Jesus is talking about our fitness to serve Him. It is a heart decision that counts. Failure to follow Jesus with a totally committed heart has cost many believers spiritual blessings and opportunities for greater ministry. But it is never too late to follow Jesus. Paul had these words about His own desire to follow Jesus,

“. . . one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I looking back?” “Am I really committed to Jesus?” Jesus wants both your heart (Matt. 22:37-39) and your action (James 2:14-26). It is easy to conclude that Jesus just wants our activity. Most say Jesus wants us to spend time in prayer, study of the Word and attending church. We forget that He wants our confession of sins (1 John 1:9) and He wants us to be filled with His Spirit (Eph. 5:17-18). But the major point we miss is that Jesus wants both – your heart and a commitment that results in action and service to Him!