Keep plowing or die! (Luke 9:62)
Jesus 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!
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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.”
Reminds me of the bulls of Bashaan, surrounding Jesus on the cross.
I like how Paul takes one scripture and tears it apart. 🙂
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
Marie, you may be interested in this post.
We must keep plowing or those in darkness will remain in darkness and if they die without receiving the free gift of grace ( Jesus and Him crucified for us ) what remains for them is eternal wrath. And this is not God ordained will.
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
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!
Thank you Pastor
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.
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
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
This is SO good! I’m on the dance floor! 🙂
Hey, Paul, thank you so much for this article great to know what we have already, confirming our standing before our Father. 🙂
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
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.
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.
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.
Very Good Post! Thank you for this. It’s such a help.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Thank you scblhrm, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Lookin back refers to looking back to the old life . You can not partake of Christ without creusifing the old man .you can never be happy trying to mix Christ with the past sins
You are not the one who does the crucifying. According to Romans 6 we are crucified, die(the old man who was a slave to sin), get buried then resurrect as a new creation when we first come to Jesus in faith. It is this death to sin slavery that gives us our power over sin. If we do not partake of Christ we are powerless sin slaves trying to kill ourselves and get free on our own. Until we partake of Christ we cannot die with Him and get raised up to new life. We do not wash ourselves up so Jesus will accept us. We accept the work of Jesus in faith so that His blood can wash us clean.
Could someone help explain this more to me? I am not seeing the connection between us plowing and dancing? It sounds like strenuous commands and im confused on how to comprehend them as restful.
What he says is, if you put your hand to the plow and look back, you are not fit for service in the Kingdom. In other words…I don’t want you plowing my field and looking back.. because your ‘service’ isn’t going to end up with nice neat straight lines if you do that…. you’re gonna ruin your future harvests because you’re plowing it all over the place and off at a funny angles!
Basically it’s not that being a Christian in the Kingdom is like plowing. If it is, it would be in contradiction with what Jesus also said about his yoke being easy and his burden light, as Paul said. But Jesus is saying don’t look back on the old you, you are a new person now! Don’t look back at your life of slavery in Egypt and long to return..you’re free now!
It’s about making your mind up about being a forward facing Christian, and dancing with joy for what Jesus has given you, and sharing that joy of the dance with others.
Hope that’s a little helpful 🙂
That helps a lot 🙂
I appreciate this
To understand the Bible you really need to be somebody that hears the voice of God.This is why there was times when he would talk to the disciples openly and then he will speak to the Pharisees in parables.
This is because although they were listening they were not understanding his word.If you would just ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and knowledge of who he is and for him to translate that word of rest you would not place doubt on the doctrines of Jesus and trying to debate and argue about what Jesus was saying.
God says call me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know of.
Many people read the Bible but they do not understand it because not everybody hears his voice or is lead and guided by the holy spirit for interpretation.
He said my sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.
Are you Gods sheep?
So my advice to you brother is for you to pray about this topic of Rest again or if you want to fast if you really can’t hear from God and he will reveal what is not clear to you.
Hi Paul, when you said “So what is he saying? He is saying we must forsake all to enter the kingdom”
Can you clarify?
Sounds a bit like works to me and contradicts “saved by grace through faith” but I know that is not your position. (I have been following you).
I am definitely going to follow Jesus and resting in Him but sometimes I wonder if I have “forsaken” all. 😦
The paragraph following that line unpacks what I mean.
Such a good message! Thanks for sharing.