Keep Plowing or Die! (Luke 9:62)

cow_plowJesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)

Is Jesus calling you to a life of unswerving service?

Is he saying, “You’re here to work and work hard”?

Well if he is, then he’s contradicting what he says here:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt 11:28)

See the problem? In one verse Jesus exhorts us to “Plow” and in another he says “Rest.” Plowing is hard, back-breaking work. You can’t plow and rest at the same time, so which is it?

“It’s both,” says the mixed-up preacher. “When you come to Jesus you rest from sin and work for the Lord.”

I know a little bit about “working for the Lord.” Until recently, I was a university professor working 50-60 hours per week at a gung-ho business school. What did I do to relax? I led a church. I preached and ran meetings and did leadership trainings and organized outreaches and worship team practices and did counseling and served the poor and a hundred other “good works.” That’s assuming I was in town. Wearing my professor’s hat I travelled to conferences and wearing my pastor’s hat I travelled to more conferences. If conferences made you holy I’d be Holy Paul.

I’m not criticizing church leaders and I’m certainly not attacking those who are bi-vocational! I’m saying my life had little in common with these restful words of Jesus:

Take my yoke upon you and… find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt 11:29-30)

Easy? Light? Rest? Are you kidding?!

Jesus obviously didn’t know how organizations are run – how they consume people like fuel and spit them out broken. Or maybe Jesus knew exactly how they are run and wanted to offer us an alternative. Maybe he was trying to tell us, “God is not your employer.”

We are saved by grace and kept by grace. Since Jesus has done it all, he doesn’t need us to do a thing. The only true work is believing in his finished work. The only worthwhile striving is that done to enter his rest.

So why does Jesus say this?

Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing to God’s kingdom! (Luk 9:62, CEV)

In the hands of a works-preacher Jesus words are whips for our backs. “You are saved by grace but now you’ve got to prove you are worthy of the kingdom. The harvest is ripe so work, work, work for Jesus!”

This sort of message will sow seeds of insecurity. It will leave you thinking, If I don’t pull my weight, I’ll no longer qualify for the kingdom.

But this is not what Jesus is saying at all! The one whose yoke is easy and light is not encouraging relentless plowing. Nor is he saying you can lose your salvation if you fail to plow (or perform). So what is he saying? He is saying we must forsake all to enter the kingdom.

Everybody dance now

Jesus doesn’t want us doing things by half. His kingdom is not something you accommodate to your life like a golf-club membership. His kingdom is like a party with the best music, food, and drink. Jesus is saying, “You’re invited, but don’t come to be a wall-flower. Get out on the dance floor with me!”

Those words about plowing are not for us for Jesus never threatens his bride. Read the verse in context and you will see that he is speaking to people who are not following him. He’s basically proposing marriage. He’s saying, “I’m an all-or-nothing proposition.” Just as you can’t be single and married at the same time, you can’t follow and not follow Jesus at the same time.

Nor does this have anything to do with being worthy or good enough for the kingdom. (Bad news: None of us is. Good news: Jesus qualifies you.)

Notice that Jesus uses the word fit as in “fit for the kingdom.” If you’ve ever been for a job interview you might have heard the expression, “You’re a good fit for our company.” Similarly, those who leap in wholeheartedly are a good fit for the kingdom. Those who don’t – those who are double-minded and unstable and insecure – are a miserable fit. They’re at the party but not on the dance floor. They’re at the banquet but they’re not eating.

If you look at the verse at the top of this post you will see that it says “fit for service.” But the words for service aren’t in the Bible! They were added by the NIV translators who evidently thought Jesus’ words needed qualification. They don’t! Check it out in a literal translation. Jesus says “fit for the reign of God” or “fit for the kingdom.” He is saying that the one who comes in wholeheartedly is going to participate in the supernaturally abounding life of God more than the one who doubts.

What is the takeaway?

The takeaway is not “Work hard for Jesus” or “Prove your worth for the kingdom through acts of service.” That sort of message will push you under the truck of guilt and condemnation in no time. It will leave you thinking, I’m not sure if I’m a good enough Christian.

The takeaway is, “Are you ready for the adventure of life shared with Christ?”

The offer of all offers is on the table. Jesus is offering you his life. This is what we were made for – to share and enjoy God’s life. But you won’t enjoy it unless you jump in with both feet. If you hang about on the fringes of his kingdom, perhaps because you think your sin is greater than God’s grace or because you believe you’re simply not good enough, you will never know and experience the fullness of the kingdom. You won’t reign in life. “Don’t be like that,” says Jesus:

No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day. (Lu 9:62, MSG)

Indeed, today is the day of salvation. Now is the time of God’s favor. Receive it!

Related posts:
– The cure for guilt
– The end of the slave trade
– Son, servant, or friend of God?

32 Comments on Keep Plowing or Die! (Luke 9:62)

  1. GOOD ONE Paul, man is this one timely or what [ Chris ] ? gotta share this one! stir up a little, ……well never mind ,carry on.

    • We must continue to plow or if not we become as the servant who wasted the talent. Meaning if we claim to be children of God save by grace alone that is experiencing the born again experience then grace compels you to work out of love not duty. Grace makes the work easy because of your new nature. Let us not take his grace in vain and forfeit our salvation. How do you forfeit your salvation by not choosing to fellowship with Christ intimately to know His heart through his word and prayer. We don’t fellowship with Christ to achieve something we already have in HIm, but to carry it out all His commandments. How? By Love through grace which is faith in Christ alone. Not works.

      1 John 5:3
      3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

      • Eric, I believe I can say effectively there are many people who want to put the cart before the horse, But then again thats always been the problem” working to salvation ” instead of working from salvation.”

  2. Reminds me of the bulls of Bashaan, surrounding Jesus on the cross.

  3. Karen Moffett // November 20, 2014 at 3:49 am // Reply

    I like how Paul takes one scripture and tears it apart.🙂

  4. Marie Campos // November 20, 2014 at 4:21 am // Reply

    Someone said to me to read Hebrews where it talks about discipline,chastened and rebuke to his sons will you address that . I’m planning a bible study using your book hypergrace for our ladies and need to prepare for these verses. Thank you

  5. Refreshing to hear the unadulterated truth. I have been set free by the fullness of grace for 9 plus years…….never to return to religion!! I know who I am, a son of God, saint, seated at the right hand of God, joint-heir, resting in Christ and enjoying the journey with the full fruit of the Spirit and power to live in Him NOW!!! Thank you for following grace and truth……Life is WOW!! Couldn’t begin to give all the testimonies of His power at work in ALL my life!!! Amazing Grace how sweet the sound. I know what that means now!!! Blessings

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you… My favorite kind of bible study is when someone like you unwraps the confusing scriptures..if it is confusing, then the translation is probably wrong. You have been such a blessing to me!

  7. Thank you Pastor

  8. The verses immediately preceeding 62 make it clear what Jesus is addressing; letting other distractions, no matter how valid they appear, draw our focus away from the Kingdom.
    This must have preeminence at all times in every area of our lives.

  9. Shondalyn Atchison // November 20, 2014 at 7:46 am // Reply

    Hello,

    I appreciate your edifying post. It is wonderful to see more Grace ministries rising up! Do you all have any connections in Hawaii (Oahu)? I would just love to fellowship with a Church that holds the same point of view. Thank you, Shondalyn Atchison

  10. Great post. Did not find anything that I disagree with. The danger in presenting works is when it is presented in the lenses of being saved ( attaining eternal life) before a holy God. Man and its fallen nature is driven to a performance based mentality. I have to do for God instead live from God. Looking at these verses (Luke 9:62) (Matt 11:28) with the wrongs lenses they will contradict each other due to lack of revelation of the finished work of Christ. The works that Christ ordained since the foundations is to extend His kingdom here on earth (Mat 6:10) . Grace now enables you to carry out what truth demands from you in all facets of life for every child of God that has been born again. This the meaning of Matt 11:28. We are called to be co-laborers with Him through Holy Spirit before His (Christ) return. Due lack of the knowledge most believers I have encountered tend to focus on their destination and not their current mission, which is being the light, salt of the world and making disciples through your life lived in and from Christ empowered by grace through Holy Spirit.

    Grace and peace to you more abundantly
    HFM

  11. This is SO good! I’m on the dance floor!🙂

  12. Hey, Paul, thank you so much for this article great to know what we have already, confirming our standing before our Father.🙂

  13. karthi moses zack // November 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm // Reply

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you very much for this post. i was been misunderstood this for a very long time. Can you add an tag to post in facebook and other web.

    thanking you karthi. m

  14. This is a misrepresentation of Matthew 11, Jesus never talk about rest for the body, but He was talking about inner rest, look at this scripture:

    Mat 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest unto your SOULS. We don’t work for our salvation, that is a free gift, but we must be work in the harvest fields of our Master because our works will determine our eternal rewards.

    Rev 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to each one according to his work.

    • Hi Daniel,
      I think our work is to believe God; that it is He who works in us to will and to act according to His good purposes.This how the burden becomes light.
      It’s absolutely not about our work ethic. It is about knowing and resting in how much He loves us and being prepared to accept the grace He died to lavish upon us.
      Blessings.

  15. Brian Midmore // November 20, 2014 at 9:53 pm // Reply

    Ploughing is not in itself hard physical work. It is the oxen after all that are doing the pulling. Ploughing requires concentration or else the furrows will be crooked. Thus if we were a ploughman who constantly looked back we would soon lose our job. We need to be totally committed to the kingdom. Busyness itself may be a distraction that we do not need.
    Those also serve thee best who only stand and wait.

  16. Very Good Post! Thank you for this. It’s such a help.

  17. Love it love it love it! Great post man, really insightful.

    “Are you ready for the adventure of life shared with Christ?”

    Yes I am!!

  18. Amen Brian! “Busyness itself may be a distraction that we do not need”. How true – I wish I would have learned that sooner in my life ~ more God, more family, more neighbor….. a lot less of me.

  19. Jam Squad Karamoja // November 22, 2014 at 10:34 am // Reply

    Simple plain english as usual! No jargons. Thanks Paul. I wish u cud have an android app developed “Escape to reality app”.

    • Sounds intriguing. What would it do?

      • Just recently started following your blogs and I have to say you are right on brother. What a lot of believers fail to understand (including myself for years) is that everything in His word is about Grace! Those who are against the radical grace movement, or question grace, still have a fear of God that is planted by religion. It is a fear of punishment that haunts them; this was me for years and God is still working on me about it. The forces of evil are working overtime to make sure we keep our distance from a true love relationship with Jesus. Grace is to good to be true, and this is how we need to believe it. Coming from a background of hardcore religion, God has shown me that the most important thing is to focus on His love, NOT PERFORMANCE! The good things we do come naturally from feeling loved. The problem is we do not know what it feels like to be loved, true Christ love. Comparing our feelings of love to God loves causes room for failure. I thank you Paul for listening to God’s calling to teach the true Gospel. Be Bless!!!

      • It would instantaneously detect and refute any hint of a legalistic, works-based, loveless and joyless representation of the Gospel. (and include a handy concordance!)
        Of course it would be free of charge.
        Blessings.

  20. Amen – Brian seems to have hit on a key nuance here when he noted that “Busyness itself may be a distraction that we do not need”. How true that is. My own prior OCCD (obsessive compulsive Christian disorder) in my own legalism and other resume’ paradigms only took me from His Kingdom rather than further into it. Had I learned – or seen – or acquiesced – sooner, well then, it would have been much more of Him, much more of His Body, much more of Family, much more of Neighbor, and far, far less of me and of mine.

  21. This is such an encouraging word! Thanks Paul!
    It seems in the worldly performance based church system the ministers who are rewarded with a name and honor are those who perform the best, the most and the longest. In this system the grace based ministers are sidelined (thank God for that so they can walk actually work with Jesus easy yoke!).
    Like Jesus us grace ministers have nothing to do in this earthly works based religion because the “shadow and copy” minister/priests take over. These “shadow/copy” ministers reproduce “shadow/copy” Christiams and they have about as much real divine power and heavenly influenece as a shadow and a copy does!
    God Only empowers and gives influenece to those who preach the gospel of Jesus plus nothing equals everything. It is us grace preachers who are the real life changers and influencers for the kingdom of God.
    Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭8‬:‭4-5‬ NASB)

  22. Ok now I am a farmer and I think everyone has totally missed the point of this parable. The mark of a skilled plough man is the straight lines he produces. They have competitions for this all the time. See the problem is we have tendency to look at the work we have done and when we see error we over correct and it produces a crooked line. Similarly when I have done fencing, you create a point to which you are aiming, always look forward never back. Drive through the countryside and look at the straight fences, they are as a result of aiming for a point rather than looking back on the job. You are not fit for the kingdom of God when you view past sins and failures. Keep your eyes on Jesus; the author and perfector of our salvation.

  23. Paul,

    It’s Thanksgiving here in my time zone – not sure about yours. Your body of work has been a real window – one of those tall, tall windows with lots of light – which has truly blessed me and helped focus my vision on some contours of Him which I had not seen as clearly as I should have. As a recovering legalist, you’ve helped me see more of what really matters in Him and in His Kingdom – those affairs and contours of His Grace, of the import of Other/Neighbor, of the reality of our posture before Him in all that is Father/Child forever out-reaching the posture of Master/Servant. Happy Thanksgiving from ours to you and yours and thank you – Amen.

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