How do we make difficult choices and stick with them?
There are many factors involved in a difficult choice, but let’s look at a very important place to start.
Let’s look at Jesus’ instructions in Luke 9:51-62 and learn a very important consideration in making difficult choices.
Luke 9:51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” 59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” 62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Are We Pilgrims? (vs 57-58)
We used to speak of Christians as pilgrims, people on a journey in a foreign land traveling to a sacred place. Jesus alluded to this aspect of the Christian life when he said he had no place to lay his head. Paul wrote that our citizenship is not of this world (Philippians 3:20). Like the children of Israel freed from slavery, we wander like nomads not yet having reached the promised land. We don’t always know where we are going, but we do know who is leading us. We are wandering nomads but also pilgrims on a journey to a holy eternity, like the ancient Israelites traveled to their pilgrim festivals three times a year to worship God.
What are Difficult Choices? (vs 59-61)
Is everything is either black or white, good or bad? Jesus reminds us that some choices are between two good things. Easier choices are between good and bad. Yet, sometimes we must choose between two evils, like a mother’s death or her unborn baby’s. Another example is Rahab who had to choose between the death of two Israelites and telling a lie, the lesser of two evils. Jesus set before us the choice between several good things, burying a parent versus following him, or saying goodbye to family versus following him. All are good, but one is a greater good. The kingdom of heaven has priority over all other good things that we could be doing. What is our choice?
Can We Choose between Good Things?
Some Christians talk about “family values” as a euphemism for “Christian values.” Jesus seems to challenge that idea. A man wanted to go and bury a parent and another wants to say goodbye to family. They are perfectly good choices. Jesus did not ask them to sever family ties, but used the situation to teach a valuable lesson. Many family values are also Christian values, but they are not always the same thing. A family name can be an idol. A family business can be worshiped as a god. Family relationships can come between us and God. While family is very important, it is God who made family and God is more important. Kingdom values are higher than family values.
Can We Plow a Straight Line? (vs 62)
Not many modern western farmers plow with oxen any more, although some have experiences which indicate a far greater return on investment than expensive farm machinery. One farmer said he was much happier. Older farmers reminisce about farming with horses and tell stories of how to keep a straight line. Just like the story Jesus told, a plowman can’t remove his hand from the plow or take his eye off a marker. To plough a straight line the farmer would choose a tree branch or other marker at the end of the field and stay fixated on that until the row was done. As farmers in God’s field, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and our hands on the plow.
What Priority is God?
Jesus told a story of distractions and the priority we must place in him. Do we squeeze Jesus into our plans or does he shape our plans? Do we allow things to distract us from church? There are many wonderful and even righteous things to be doing in this world. They may not be evil things, but they can distract us from the priority of the Gospel. Most of us spend hours feathering our nests and preparing a home. This too is not an evil thing, but can the comforts of home distract us from the priority of Jesus? Honoring parents has a very high priority in the Bible, but can family distract us from an even greater priority, Jesus?
How do we make difficult choices? A choice between good and evil is easy. Choose the good. When the only choices are between several bad things. We may ask what is the lesser of all the evils. When all our choices are good, we certainly want to start by choosing God first and plowing a straight line to him without wavering.