Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” (Luke 9:61)Jesus' reply can easily be taken out of context. Is Jesus saying that a farmer or a field worker cannot return to the spiritual realm?
Why couldn't he say goodbye to his family?
Wasn't Jesus supportive of the family? Just consider today if a teacher discouraged his students from saying goodbye to their family before becoming a follower. People would scream cult.
Also consider, the importance of family is one of the central tenets of so many sectarian churches today. Why wasn't Jesus supportive of the potential follower returning to his family to say goodbye?
We must understand that Jesus wasn't making a grand statement to all of humanity about farming here. He was speaking directly to this potential follower, who had the choice of following Jesus now or looking "back" by going back to his family to say goodbye.
Jesus is speaking of commitment here.
Commitment requires focus. And it relates to service. This is why Jesus refers to "service in the kingdom of God.” And why he references "a hand to the plow and looks back." Jesus is talking about our grand choice: who do we want to serve?
While many think of the spiritual realm or heaven as this place where people are all sitting around playing harps, or otherwise enjoying themselves, the spiritual realm is actually a place of loving service to the Supreme Being. Enjoyment is there, but this is the joy of loving and serving the Supreme Being and His children. It is the joy of giving pleasure to the Supreme Being.
You see, we are all servants. Whether we serve ourselves and our physical bodies, our bosses, our electorate, our board of directors, our parents or our spouses, we are all serving someone, and most of the time we are serving multiple people at once, as well as serving our physical bodies.
These ultimately self-centered engagements are all based on the mistaken notion that we are independent and we do not need to serve. We think of ourselves as the boss of someone or something. We like to think of ourselves as the boss of our children, or our employees, or our fans, or our pets. But what we don't see is that we are actually their servants.
This is seen easily in pet owners who pick up their pet's poop. Or parents who change their children's diapers and drive them to school every day. Or bosses who provide services for their employees. Or stars who serve their fans by entertaining them, providing interviews and public engagements.
We don't see that we are servants for only one reason: Because we don't want to be a servant.
This is called denial.
We are in denial that we are servants. This is because we have become envious of the Supreme Being. We wanted what He has. We became envious of Him and this is why we were kicked out of the spiritual realm.
So God gave us these temporary physical bodies and this illusory place so we could pretend we were bosses of something. But because our nature is one of servant, we simply have changed from one type of service to another. Our service is now self-centered instead of being God-centered.
So Jesus is offering those around him a pathway back to their natural position as one of God's loving servants in the spiritual realm. Do they want to take that opportunity? If they do, they must be committed to it. They must be focused upon it, and not look back.
This reflects the fact that the Supreme Being only wants us to come home when we are ready. This is what Jesus means by "fit for service" - being ready. And "fit for service" means we must have totally committed ourselves to loving and serving the Supreme Being. This means having a one pointed commitment to pleasing God.
This is the test that Jesus is giving to his prospective student. He is saying that only those who are committed to following him will become ready to return to their position as God's loving service in the spiritual realm.
Love is the bottom line
And it is love that lies at the bottom line. Service to God must be based upon love or it is not spiritual. Service to God based upon getting something in return is not spiritual. That is business. It is still self-centered. And because it is ultimately self-centered, there is no commitment in this type of service relationship.
This can be compared to other relationships of seeming love in the physical world. If a father loves his son, and his son gets in an accident, what does the father do? He drops everything and rushes to the hospital. He doesn't first go to his own parents or his boss and ask them if it is alright if he goes to the hospital. He just does it. Why? Because of his complete commitment to his son. And this reflects his love for his son. He doesn't care if he loses his job.
This relationship between love and service, and the type of natural commitment that follows is also reflected in Jesus' most important instruction:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)