This past Sunday in church, the gospel text was Luke 9:57-62, summarized as “The cost of following Jesus.” In the concluding line of this text, Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Despite the fact that biblical references to agriculture always interest me, I never gave much thought to this particular verse until the pastor explained it.
This particular pastor was a visiting pastor who originally hailed from the hills of Tennessee. As such, he knew a lot of old-time farmers who grew up plowing with horses or mules. In talking with these veteran farmers, he learned that when plowing with animals, they tend to plow where you look. If your attention is drawn to the left, you unconsciously direct your mules or horses to the left. If your attention is drawn to the right, you plow to the right.
“So how,” asked the pastor of one of these farmers, “do you plow in a straight line?”
“You fix your eyes on a distant spot in front of you and don’t look to the side. As long as you stare straight ahead, you’ll plow a straight line.”
And this, the pastor explained, is what the parable means. If you allow your attention to be diverted from the cross in front of you, you won’t plow your life toward that cross. You’ll be distracted by the diversions of this world. You’ll diverge to the left or to the right, anywhere but straight ahead.
I’ve been thinking about this since Sunday because it makes such good sense. When I allow myself to wander away from the cross, I’ll say [w]itchy things, or make snarks, or gossip, or indulge in vices, otherwise behave in ways that are unbecoming to a Christian woman.
Every sin to which mankind falls prey can be attributed to taking our eyes off the prize. Some people never see the prize and don’t know the wonder that can come from attaining it. Some people think the “prize” is so distant that they don’t have to worry about it now. Or maybe they think the prize is a mirage and isn’t really there. Or maybe they think that hey, a little side trip here and there off the straight furrow is no big deal; they can always straighten up later. Some people can; but others sink into habits or vices that are hard to escape, and others make such big mistakes that it changes their life (for the bad) forever.
It’s so much simpler, in the end, to fix our eyes on the prize and plow a straight line. Don’t take your hand off the plow or we may find ourselves not fit for service in the Kingdom of God.
Just some philosophical musings on a hot and humid summer day.