Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Considering Christ’s description of the cost of discipleship.

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”—Luke 9:62


This is a word from Jesus about the importance of commitment. Hand refers to our spiritual motivation. Because of the hand’s ability to seize, control or manipulate, when it’s used metaphorically in scripture, it is most often associated with strength or power. This becomes very clear when we’re talking about the hand of God. When Job appealed to his friends—turned accusers—to have pity on him, he said, “…the hand of God has touched me.” He was referring to God’s sovereign power. When Moses told Israel to remember their day of deliverance from Egypt, he said, “...for by strength of His hand the Lord has brought you out of this place.” He was referring to God’s ability to govern the forces of history. When the psalmist says to God, “My times are in Your hands,” he’s alluding to God’s providential care. And, of course, when we speak of God’s power and His provision, we are speaking about His ability to do good.

But when the scripture refers to the hand of man, his strength and power may be used for good or evil, depending on the motivation of the individual and his willingness to be used by God. With regard to good, the Bible says that, as God guided Jacob, as Jacob made a personal commitment to the Lord, all that came into his hands was blessed. But by the same token, the Bible says that, when Cain saw that his brother Abel’s offering to God was accepted while his was rejected, he set his hand against his brother, took him out into a field and murdered him. And when we consider the sweeping variance that can and often does exist between good and evil, most often the determining factor as to which side we are on is our personal commitment.

Thus, it’s fair to ask today: “What does our walk say about us? What have we set our minds and our hearts to? What power are we yielding to? To what and to Who are we committed?” Not only are these fair questions, but they are important questions because of the times in which we live. Our times cry out for a Church that is as committed to the cause of Christ as the other entities of the world are committed to their concerns. As committed as Wall Street is to the making of money, we need to be committed to Christ; as committed as the military is to the defense of this nation, we need to be committed to Christ; as committed as the athlete is to keeping his body in tip-top condition, we must be committed to the cause of Christ, for our commitment to Christ will determine our success or failure.

In our text today, Jesus is rebuking a man who had come to Him saying that he wanted to follow Him. Jesus was passing through Samaria, on His way to Jerusalem. His popularity was reaching great heights and, as a result, there were many who claimed to want to follow Him. One such man came up to Jesus and said, “Lord, I want to follow You, but first let me go back and tell my family good-bye.” On the surface, it doesn’t seem to be a strange request. Which one of us, when preparing to go on a long journey, would not want to go back and tell their loved ones, “Farewell?” But Jesus’ response to the man shows His disappointment at the man’s level of commitment. Jesus says to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” In other words, “No one who starts this journey should allow himself to be pulled away from it; no one who commits his strength and heart to this mission should permit himself to be so distracted by other things that he stops what he’s started. And by Jesus’ response, it’s clear that He found this man’s commitment to be lacking.

Now my brothers and sisters, this man represents a significant portion of the Church today. There is a lack of commitment by us to the cause of Christ. Now, as I say that, it’s important that we know what the cause of Christ is. Read Matthew 4:23, and it tells you what Jesus was committed to: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” That’s what Jesus was committed to, and it must be what we are committed to. John 12:32 tells us what Jesus was committed to: “When I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to Myself.” That’s what we must be committed to. John 10:10 tells us what Jesus was committed to: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; [but] I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s what we must be committed to. But Jesus is saying to us today that, if we put our hand to the plow and then look back—if we start, but don’t finish, if we become half-hearted in what we’re doing and fail to give our all to the cause of Christ—then we’re not fit for the kingdom of God.

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