Still another said, "I will follow you, LORD; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family."
Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:61-62 NIV
The man in this scripture initiates this conversation and volunteers to follow Jesus. But before Jesus can even speak, the man raises an issue: abrupt separation from his family. He wanted to go and say goodbye to his family before he followed Jesus.
Elisha made a similar request to Elijah when he first entered his service and Elijah granted the request. Jesus does not. The request, in His mind, is out of line. Elisha and Elijah’s story was different. Elisha did not volunteer to be Elijah’s right hand man. However, this man did, so Jesus makes the point that “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is telling the man that by volunteering He has put his hand to the plow, and he’s now looking back. No one can plow a straight line while looking in the other direction. Jesus knew that the man would always be preoccupied, looking back at his family. He would always be reverse-focused; his attention would be compromised, and his path forward would never be straight.
He had a focus issue. His focus would always have competition. His attachments would cause his plowing to be curved, not straight. People around him would be confused. He would say, “I love Jesus!” but when people look at the field behind him, they would see zig-zagged with distractions and detours.
Our attention, too, can compromise our intentions. Our attachments can cause us to plow fields that are too bent and curved to reap any reward. We are loyal to the wrong things. We may feel obligated to stay connected to things and people that prevent us from staying focused on the straight line that Jesus has set for us.
We have to know, if Jesus let us go home and share a meal with our family, would we return like Elisha or disappear like this man?