August 23, 2010
No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62
In June 2008, Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced a proposed deal with the United States Sugar Corporation to buy up all its assets, including 187,000 acres of land for Everglades restoration. The price: $1.75 billion.
According to a New York Times article, “Never before had so much land north of Everglades National Park been made available.” Wetlands would be saved along with endangered plants and animals. Environmentalists were delighted–and so was the National Park Service.
Finally, after the project had been scaled back three times, two lawsuits filed, much negotiation conducted and with less tax revenue available for the purchase, it looks like some kind of deal will actually get done. Two weeks ago, the South Florida Water Management District, which will buy and manage the land, voted to pay $197 million for 26,790 acres, with an option to buy more land later.
Despite the less ambitious outcome, Gov. Crist is pleased, and in a statement he quoted the philosopher Lao Tzu: “The longest journey begins with a single step.”
Taoist philosophy in this case dovetails with Jesus’ words: start at the beginning. For a Christian, that means first putting our hand to the plow by responding to the invitation to follow Jesus (Matthew 11:28).
The word picture Luke conjures up should be very familiar to anyone who has ever tilled the soil. If you keep looking back while you’re making a furrow, your rows will be crooked, and by the time you get to the end of the field, everything will be all off. Anyone who farms needs to realize what he or she is getting into. Drought, storms, pests and uncertain yield are the norms. A farmer who’s distracted won’t last very long.
Like farming, the Christian life is hard work. Scripture cautions Jesus’ followers to carefully consider the cost of a full commitment to Him. We’re adjured to prepare for the long haul, to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12, 13) after we step out in faith. “Forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead,” Paul says later in Philippians 3:13. And the writer of Hebrews encourages us to “run with endurance” and “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1, 2). A Christian who’s constantly looking back won’t last for the entire journey.
Will Gov. Crist eventually get everything he wants? Maybe. Will the Everglades ever be fully restored? I doubt it. Will those who sign on to the Christian life always reap a bumper crop? Definitely not. Droughts, storms, pests and uncertain yields this side of heaven are spiritual givens as well.
That’s why it’s so good to know our hand is not alone on the plow (Psalm 16:8, 73:23).