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
Looking Back – “If you do not cut the moorings, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out.” Oswald Chambers was as harsh as Jesus. He’s right. There is no safety when we follow the Lord. At least there isn’t any safety according to the world’s standards. God wants to push us out into the violent ocean of life’s troubles so that He can use us as peacemakers, healers, reconcilers, counselors, friends and lovers. You are no good to God sitting on the sheltered pew under the stained glass contemplating the alter. You’ve got to go out (Abraham would say lech lecha – go forth). You’ve got to be where the world is hurting if you are going to be fit for the Kingdom.
The Greek construction is blepon eis ta opiso (looking into the things behind). You can see a Hebrew equivalent in Genesis 19:17 where looking back brings instant death. So, you might think that this verse is about someone who decides to follow the Lord but then looks back at the past life with a desire to return to it. You might think that this verse is about wavering, wanting some of that old way of doing things back again. You might think this is about serious reconsideration of what you had to give up. But you would be wrong.
There are several Greek verbs that mean “to look.” There is horao which implies taking heed, seeing with care. Blepo implies the ability to see, not the degree or intensity of the sight. There is theoreo which implies a careful and deliberate attention to something seen. Blepo implies a glance in the direction of the object, not necessarily a careful and thoughtful examination. The classic case of the difference is the story of the blind man who receives his sight. Blepo describes his ability to see, not what he sees. With these distinctions in mind, let’s look at this verse again.
“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and glancing into past things, is fit for the kingdom of God.” A ton of bricks just fell on my chest! It’s one thing to look back on the old habits with nostalgia, but it’s quite another to be told that even a glance in that direction will affect my usefulness to God. Then I remember Lot’s wife. She didn’t drive away from Sodom with her eyes fixed to the rear view mirror. All she did was glance back toward what she was leaving behind – and it killed her.
Now we have to be careful about two things. First, we have to recognize that being fit for the Kingdom is not quite the same as being a chosen citizen. “Fit for the Kingdom” is a metaphor about my usefulness to God. It’s about my availability for His purposes. To be fit for the Kingdom is to be ready to work. God doesn’t grant me His grace and mercy based on my fitness, but He certainly can’t use someone who isn’t ready to go to work. Secondly, glancing back makes it impossible to plow a straight line. I have to concentrate on what is in front of me if I am going to get the job done. Try driving down the freeway with your eyes on the rear view mirror. You’re a danger to yourself and to others. If you’re going to be of use to God, no turns of the head are allowed.
Of course, we all do glance back, don’t we? But God forgives even glances. Now, back to work!
Topical Index: blepo, horao, theoreo, seeing, glance, Genesis 19:17, Luke 9:62