Living the teachings of Christ requires commitment and determination. He invites us to follow him, to let go of our desires and replace them with His. Choosing the life of a disciple is no light decision. One man expressing his desire to follow the saviour was warned: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Just a few verses later Jesus delivers the verse I’d like to bring to your attention:
No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
I liked this particular scripture the moment I first read it. It conjures in my mind a requirement to be committed and fully present in the Lord’s work – in living. I’ve never ploughed a field the way it must have been done in those days. Someone once told me, speaking of this verse specifically, that when ploughing a field you must keep your vision fixed on a point ahead of you. To look back would certainly lead to crooked furrows. Immediately I thought, “straight is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life eternal.”
When I first encountered this verse many years ago I thought it a little harsh. Certainly, it is a demanding teaching. If one considers the moment they first chose to follow Christ as the time they “put their hand to the plough” I’m afraid none of us will be “fit for the kingdom of God.” I’ve begun to realize though that daily we enter the field with a new opportunity to throw ourselves into life. Daily we can choose to put down our vices, our unhealthy desires, our worries even and pick up the plough. Forget about the burdens we carry and simply work.
Work? What is this work? Christ’s work was to comfort the sick and the needy, to heal the lame, to feed the hungry, to bring faith and hope and love to a world in deep need of these virtues. Put this way it sounds wonderful but daily it meant going hungry himself, it meant putting aside his desires to just lie down and take a nap to instead comfort a widow or teach a thronging multitude. We all have our work. For the new mother it may mean foregoing sleep to feed a colicky baby. It may be putting in another day of monotony at a job that barely pays the rent so those relying on you can have food on the table and clothes on their backs. The ground may be hard and uneven we are called to work and yesterday’s furrows may be less than straight but when you wake in the morning and put your hand to the work yesterday’s furrows no longer matter. Don’t look back.
As one of my favourite disciples of Christ so eloquently said:
The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future (“The Best Is Yet to Be,” Ensign, Jan. 2010, 24; or Liahona, Jan. 2010, 18).