HAND TO THE PLOW
T. PIERCE BROWN
Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for thekingdomofGod.” The context indicates that He had reference to starting to work in the kingdom of God, and then having the attitude the Israelites evidenced in Exodus 14:11-12, Exodus 16:3 and various other times when they looked back on something for which they yearned when they were in bondage in Egypt.
However, the principle would apply in various other circumstances when we start a task for the Lord and then are more concerned with “looking back” on where we have been than on where we are supposed to go. Any time we are unwilling to follow through with the job God has for us, and for which we volunteered, we are very near the situation Jesus described in the prohibition: “not fit for thekingdomofGod.”
For the past 50 years I have been concerned with and involved in city wide, area wide or statewide campaigns, gospel meetings and evangelistic programs of one sort or another. They have involved some outstanding preachers in the brotherhood. In almost all of them from $50,000 to $200,000 was spent on the campaign.
In addition to all the wonderful things that were accomplished in these campaigns and programs, there are several things that were and are very sad to which I want to call your attention. I do this primarily so we may be forewarned, and thus forearmed against the likelihood of their repetition.
First, it is my opinion from what I have observed in practically all the campaigns, workshops and programs in which I have participated that there are many who would probably drive 100 miles on ice to hear some high powered speaker deliver a powerful message on personal evangelism or some other subject, who would not walk across the street to put into practice any principle he presumably learned. What is as equally repugnant is that some of the speakers who would fly across the country to deliver some of those wonderful lessons on personal evangelism did not walk across the street, either before or after their lesson to actually practice what they preached. I could name persons, places and times, but why bother? My purpose is not to find fault with those individuals, but to get you to think of your own responses and do something about them. Do you actually intend to put into practice the good things you speak or hear at these workshops, lecture programs, or campaigns?
Second, in one of the statewide meetings, I was on the attendance committee. There were busloads of persons who were brought in from at least three states. In no case of which I was aware did ANY person on ANY of those busses strive to get any unsaved person to that meeting. Of course I know that there were many places and busses of which I had no knowledge, but in EVERY case I checked, the busses were filled with church members who were encouraged by their local preacher to go in order that an impression could be made on the unbelieving world by their presence. That was so much easier, though far more expensive, than sitting down with some unsaved person and teaching him the gospel. Of course it would not actually have been easier if those who attended had been interested in personally teaching the unsaved person. However, the great commission did not say, “Try to impress the world with the fact that you have large numbers of people at a given program,” but “preach the gospel to every creature.”
Third, from many years of observing those things at close range, I am convinced that in many cases the feelings and enthusiasm for this one fantastic, glorious effort was substituted for a consistent, meaningful commitment on a day by day basis. I am convinced that there are thousands who are somewhat like Peter. He was willing to die for Christ (Mark14:30, John18:10), but found it too difficult to live for him (Matthew 26:70-74). There are those who go to workshops (which in some cases are not actually workshops at all, for no one in the audience actually does any work there, but just hears lectures about doing work), or to evangelism seminars (in which it is sometimes difficult to hear one lesson that really deals with personal evangelism). Apparently they go in order to get their “fix” (whatever that is), or reach a “high.” We have a group of people who have been inoculated so many times with a small dose of Christianity that they are immune to the real thing.
There are several sad things about these emotional “highs” which we get when we attend a great effort. One is that the feeling of excitement we get makes us think we have accomplished something great, or that someone has. Second, we may tend to think that unless our local preacher gets us to that same kind of “high,” no matter how much meat he may provide in his sermon, that he is at best a second class preacher, not worth hearing. Third, each time our emotions get stirred by an awareness of a great truth which many of these great preachers can do so well, if we do not act upon those emotions to practice what we have been stirred to think upon, we become sermon hardened. We “flirt with Christ” so often that we are unable to love Him properly. And perhaps even worse, we get to where we do not know the difference.
Last, in almost all of these efforts, there has been, in my judgment, a failure to follow through with whatever impact we made on the unbelieving world–if we made any. In a few cases we made some, and in a few cases there was a good effort to follow up. However, I could tell you of cases where there were congregations that would get excited aboutWorldBibleSchooland would order hundreds of names of students. Six months later those names would still be stacked on the table in the foyer. Or there would be a congregation that would spend thousands of dollars on a correspondence Bible course. Many would respond from other cities, and the cards would be sent to a congregation in that city. A year later the names on the cards would still be left not visited. There are many congregations that got excited about the ONE NATION UNDER GOD program and contributed something to the first phase. When that was done and attention was turned to what was planned from the beginning, going into the rest of the world, they turned their attention to something they considered more glamorous. They would spend several thousand dollars to send their preacher toRussiaor somewhere and preach a week or two, baptizing a number of persons. They came back reporting great progress, but they left no one there to take care of their converts. The ONE NATION UNDER GOD effort always tries to make sure there are faithful brethren on the field to see that the program works, and to follow up on what is done. But there are many churches and individuals that have put their hand to the plow and then looked back. The church of the Lord is definitely of Divine origin, or it would have perished long ago. No human business could operate on the lackadaisical and inefficient methods we use. “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the sons of light” (Lk. 16:8).
I could list other negative examples, but I weary of it. Besides, we have all learned from the wonderful lectures at the workshops and sermons at the campaigns that we are supposed to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. So the thing which I especially want to urge is that whatever program may gain your attention and involvement, do not play with it until the “newness” wears off then drop it, but plan to enlist for the duration.
If you do not, in all too many cases the rebuke of Jesus in Mt. 23:15 would be applicable. “Ye compass land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” The reason I repeat his harsh statement is that we teach new converts more by what we do than by what we say. When we “put our hands to the plow and look back” we teach them that all the wonderful things about which we talked are not really so.
We urge you to reconsider your commitment to Christ and become and stay involved in a program that from its inception was designed to go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature. There will be times when we will not be able to report from some areas about a glowing response, but God said that His word would not return to Him void. Our business is to sow it and nurture the plants. Why not help? If not now, when?