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Mowing the Grass

by Tim O'Hearn

When I lived in Illinois, one of my jobs around the house was mowing the grass. I guess, for my New Mexico readers, I ought to explain grass. It is that green growing stuff that you don’t find on golf courses or ball fields, but you do find in front of grocery stores where they water the street along with the yard and the parking lot. It is the subject of a famous quote (I think it was by Will Rogers) about the government and Indian reservations. “They promised my people the land as long as the water flows and the grass grows, and then they put us on land where the water doesn’t flow and the grass doesn’t grow.” Anyway, I had to cut the grass. I used a gas-powered lawnmower. Now, the most efficient way to mow the lawn is to start in one corner, mow a straight path to another, adjacent corner, then go back and forth, keeping one set of wheels on the edge of the grass you have already cut. That guarantees that you keep mowing in a straight line. One time, as I turned around for the next pass I saw that my cut was not straight. Then I remembered (and for years afterward thought about it every time I was mowing) the words of Jesus. “No man, having put his hand to the lawnmower, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Actually, in Luke 9:62 Jesus used the word “plow” instead of “lawnmower,” but who puts his hand to the plow in the United States these days. (Putting a tractor to a plow, maybe; but never a hand.)

Plow or lawnmower, what Jesus said still applies. If you don’t keep your eyes forward, on a set goal, you can’t cut a straight line. This passage tells me some other things as well.

Not everybody is fit for God’s kingdom. That may be a shocking statement to some, and flies in the face of the Universalist doctrine that everybody will eventually be in heaven. It may even shock some people who, if they think about it, really believe it. Not everybody is fit for the kingdom of God. Everybody has the opportunity to be, but not everybody takes it. One of my favorite, and most comforting, passages is the one in 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 where Paul lists a number of types of sinner, and concludes by saying, “and such were some of you: but you are washed, you are sanctified.” As comforting as that is, so much is it also terrifying, because for each of those that chose to follow God and leave their sin, many more chose to continue in their ways. By making that choice they made themselves unfit for the kingdom. They may be unfit, but God did not make them that way.

Another thing I learn from what Jesus says is that some that think they are in the kingdom are not fit for the kingdom. He is not talking about people who never put their hand to the lawnmower or plow. He is talking about those who began to plow the row or mow the grass and then looked back. Some of these may be people who have prayed for Jesus to come into their lives, and then continued to live as they had before. Some may have been immersed for remission of sins, but later went back to their old lives. Some may even believe that it is impossible to lose salvation once they have attained it. They may have been saved, but are now unfit for the kingdom. These are the people Paul addresses in Romans 6:1-2. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” If it is frightening that some may choose to remain unfit for the kingdom, how much more frightening should it be that someone in the kingdom may choose to become unfit for his calling!

On a positive note, Jesus is also saying that those who don’t act like Lot’s wife are properly suited for the kingdom. In this wold some people may feel like a square peg in a round hole. This world just does not fit properly. That is because God is the tailor. If we expect to live in this world we won’t find the perfect fit. If we expect to live in God’s kingdom we will find the perfect fit. We will be fit for the kingdom, and it will fit us. We just have to keep mowing a straight line without looking back.