"So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” (1 Kings 19:21)
An older translation says simply, “He burned the plow.” Elisha never did anything halfway. He made his living as a farmer, and that plow was priceless to him if he was going eat that winter, after the harvest. But he recognized God’s calling on his life and knew there would be no second chance if he hesitated on this. So he burned the plow, then moved forward into service to his God.
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9) The tax collectors were government-sponsored thieves. They could extort money from the taxpayers unfairly because they had Roman soldiers backing them up. Matthew had money rolling in, but when Jesus called him, he didn’t hesitate. Somehow he understood supernaturally that something great was happening here and he didn’t want to miss out. He in essence “burned the plow,” left everything of his old life and followed Jesus from then on, with his whole heart.
God doesn’t accept excuses. As Jesus was gathering followers, many tried to put Him off, thinking they could deflect attention from themselves and maybe He’d just go away, leaving them to continue in their old lives. One man told Jesus that he’d follow Him after he buried his father. Jewish burial during that era took a full year. Jesus didn’t let him off the hook, but told him to let the dead bury the dead. “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) God requires us to move forward without yearning for the old life we left behind. We have to make a clean break. We have to burn the plow!
“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24)
Mark 10 gives us a deeper look at how this plays out: “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’… ‘You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’— ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Jesus accepts no less than everything we have and everything we are.
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)
Burn the plow!
© 2018 Darvis McCoy
About the Picture: Taken in 2008 in Cambodia.
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