“No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
When Jesus was on earth he called men as soldiers of the cross and pressed them into service. The Father determined beforehand how many, who they should be and where they could he found. Hence Jesus Walked by the sea and called from the fishermen’s boats Peter, James and John. Not one of them offered the slightest excuse, nor manifested the slightest rebellion, but followed him, feeling in their souls the power of his word. When he desired others they were in the right. place at the right time, and he continued to call and send forth until the entire number was made up. Those men left homes, their wives and children to serve in the kingdom of God, and not one ever turned back. One said when called, Let me first go and bury my father, but Jesus answered, Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. The request was very reasonable, and that one felt it very important, yet his hand was put to the plough and he must not look back. In this is presented the greatness of the work, the glory of the kingdom, the importance of the gospel and the power in the word “go.” Men dead in sin can bury dead bodies, but they cannot preach the kingdom of God. No man taketh this honor unto himself, save he that is called, as was Aaron. We have often thought of the apostles in their early ministry, going from place to place and from house to house saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and, Peace be unto this house, whenever they discovered the Son of Peace there. It to them must have been most wonderful, and in great measure incomprehensible, nevertheless they obeyed the Captain of their army and served in his strength. No price was agreed upon for their service, nothing was ever said about such a thing except the question asked: We have left all and followed thee, what shall we have therefore? And Jesus answered, Ye that have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. How many of the carnal wise today would want to serve for such reward‘? Gold and silver seem the only incentive, and thousands are hungering more after money than after righteousness, and hence are seeking it first, rather than the kingdom of God. The needs of the apostles were supplied, and the promise: Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world, is as good and sure to those called now and pressed into service. We cannot think that the love of money ever prompted a man of God to preach the gospel of Christ. Love to him and his cause, and the power felt in his own soul, move him to leave father and mother, wife and children, to “go and preach the kingdom of God.”
In reading the few preceding verses to our text it will be seen that a certain man came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow thee.” He would be called “a volunteer,’’ and while thousands of such have been accepted by our government from time to time, no such thing was ever known in the kingdom of God. Hence Jesus told him, as is recorded in another place, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. This settled the matter in the mind of the volunteer, and we never hear of him again. Those who volunteer service in any army do so with selfish motives, sometimes for the actual pay, sometimes because of failure in every other direction, and sometimes hoping to attain unto some honorable rank. Were it known to them that nothing but poverty and distress would ever attend their lives, not one would volunteer to serve. Such was the life of the apostles, and such has been the life of all ministers of Jesus Christ. Doubtless the man who said, Lord, I will follow thee, was ambitious, expecting to be benefited in different directions, but when assured that Jesus was poorer than foxes and birds, and that no gain could be reached by becoming a disciple, it required very little time for him to decide not to follow the “Lord.” To follow him means “the loss of all things,” sorrow, cross, temptation, burden-bearing and everything that goes to make up a life of woe. It has not seemed to us that poverty alone is suggested in the expression: Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but no place of rest as well. And this does not mean that Jesus had no bed upon which to rest his often weary body, but until the work given him of the Father was accomplished there could be no rest for him no discharge in that war.
The figure of a man ploughing is very striking, and easily understood by all of experience along that line. A man engaged in such work has his work before him, and is not expected to look back; if he does he may be fit for some other place on the farm, but is not fit for the plough. So it would be with a disciple or minister of Jesus, having put their hand to the plough, “and looking back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.” This means that the business of the kingdom is first of all things, and that the King demands undivided service. Not even the burying of dead relatives was allowed by the Savior, and the same faithfulness is required to-day, not only of those called to preach, but those called to be disciples, followers of Jesus. All churches expect the minister to be present at each appointment, and such excuses as having company, getting in hay, digging potatoes or visiting friends would not be accepted at all by the churches of his care, but he is expected to accept all such excuses from the members. If faithfulness is to be reckoned at all, the pastor has a right to expect each member present at every appointment, as well as the members to expect the pastor. So many things in this day occupy the attention of the people of God so much looking back. Jesus on one occasion reminded his disciples of Lot’s wife, the example of her looking back. She received commandment when leaving Sodom not to look back, but she, remembering her children and all her earthly possessions, did look, and immediately became a pillar of salt. Some have said, O, she was salt, and associate her with “the salt of the earth.” We would not dare say she was not saved, because there are good reasons for believing she was, but we feel safe in saying" she was “not fit for the kingdom of God,” and will ever be a monument of disobedience for the children of God to behold. “Remember Lot’s wife.” The “looking back ” of the Lord’s people is not always in forsaking the doctrine, denying the faith and becoming subjects of exclusion, but in longing for the leeks and onions of the land of bondage, in looking to gold as the god of deliverance, &c., and while in the kingdom we are not fit for it when in such condition. The unfitness for the kingdom of God is most always known better by those who realize it in their own souls than by any one else. The man who knows what he really is by nature is ready to confess his unworthiness and unclean heart, and feels that the kingdom of God would be absolutely, pure without his presence. But Paul said, In every great house there are not only Vessels of gold and silver, but some of wood and some of earth, some to honor and some to dishonor. Such was the condition then, and such continues to this day. May we all watch and be sober and hope to the end. K.
Elder H. R. Ker
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 16
August 15, 1914