Burn Your Plows!!!!!
I believe it’s because too often we pick the wrong place to begin pursuing the greater things God has for us.
Listen up! The greater life doesn’t start with drawing up the blueprints for the new you, or with dreaming big dreams or imagining good things. Your greater life doesn’t begin with building your dream house.
It begins with burning down your old house. We have to start with an act of arson.
One of the boldest breakaways in the bible is when Elijah has to make a decision to stay in his old life or breakaway and into a new life of adventure as Elisha’s assistant. When Elijah’s cloak lands on Elisha’s shoulders, Elisha does more than run after him. He makes sure there is nothing to run back to.
“Elisha took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah”. (1 Kings 19:21)
Elisha destroys— and feeds to his friends— the animals that were his only means of making a living. This seems bizarre to us. After all, he could have given away the oxen with bows around their necks instead of serving them up in Crock-pots.
But Elisha lives in a society where ceremonial sacrifice is understood. So cooking the oxen in celebration of Elisha’s newfound calling is not unprecedented. His act might have offended PETA but not necessarily his neighbors. That leaves the bizarre part: Elisha doesn’t just cook the cattle; Elisha also burns the plows.
Now, when the prodigal son comes home to his father in the Luke 15 story, the father kills the fattened calf. He does not throw his toolbox onto the bonfire. But that is exactly what Elisha does— he burns the tools of his old life.
We might understand why Elisha slaughtered the oxen. But why burn the plows? Even after his neighbors had second helpings of meat loaf, somebody could have benefited from the plows. At the very least, Elisha could have hauled the plows to the Middle Eastern Goodwill not unlike the woman’s pouring out a bottle of perfume upon the head of Jesus, knowing good and well it was worth a year’s wages (see Matthew 26: 6– 13), Elisha’s act appears irresponsible, maybe even selfish.
It all seems insane— until you understand this isn’t a story about how to manage farming equipment. This isn’t a missed opportunity for recycling. This isn’t really even about plows or oxen. Burning the plows had no practical value to Elisha or anybody else. Symbolically, though, it meant everything.
He is making a decisive break from his old life, from the source of his livelihood, from everything that represents the stale stability and predictability of his life behind the plow. He is burning Clark Kent’s coat and tie so he can wear Superman’s cape.
And this is where we must deviate from the usual self-help script. It is true that God had a greater life in store for Elisha than anything he had known before. And it is true that God has a greater life in store for you than anything you have known before. But if you want to have the kind of greater life Elisha had, you have to do what Elisha did. You have to burn your plow.
Your plow is what chains you to the ordinary. It could be anything.
- A present job that’s not in line with what God has called you to do
- The passionless and purposeless approach you take toward the job you have and where God is calling you to remain
- Old, small paradigms of thought about what God wants to do in and through your life
- The conscious choice to stay in an abusive relationship
When we consider following God in a way that would disrupt our lives, we usually try to pre-qualify our obedience before taking the first step.
You can’t get too worried about whether you’ve read the right books or been to the right school or have the right connections. Right now, the only equipment you need is a flamethrower (or, if that sounds too dramatic, at least a box of matches). That’s because you can’t step into your new life until you first set fire to whatever is tethering you to your old life.
Before you can go forward into the life God has for you, you have to offer Him every part of the life you have.
It’s really a matter of surrender. Will you burn the plows?
You have to be ready to say, “God, whatever the greater life You are calling me into might look like, I’m in.
Whether it’s a big thing or a small thing You call me to do, I believe it will be a greater thing because You’re the One who is calling and You are greater than all things.
Whether the greater life means leaving something behind or becoming more passionate about where I am, I’ve decided to follow You. “Here’s my life, Lord. It’s open ended. And it’s pointed in the direction of the next step You call me to take. No matter what it costs.”
This is what’s crazy about fully surrendering to God in this way: On the one hand, it feels as if you’re losing control because essentially you are. But on the other hand, an amazing freedom comes from praying a prayer like that.
Because when you do, your heavenly Father takes the outcome of your obedience into His responsible hands. You no longer have to carry the weight on your own.
God does not necessarily tell you how He will do it, only that He will do it. If you sit around waiting for Him to tell you how He is going to hold up His end before you start torching your plows, you are in for an awfully long wait.
Truth be told, you are probably in for a lifetime of waiting. And it can be frustrating to follow a God like that.
God’s directions can sometimes be painfully vague and incomplete. He’ll do the showing if you will do the going. You can’t think too far ahead about where you’ll end up. You can only go where He tells you to go today. When you wake up the next morning, He’ll show you where to go tomorrow. The day after that, He’ll show you where to go that day. And the day after that, and the next day, and the next day. You see life is now. Not yesterday and certainly not tomorrow.
If He told you the whole thing at once, it would probably freak you out. Besides, He’s trying to teach you how to walk by faith in the present. And most of all, His greatest ambition in leading you into greater things isn’t that you would know what to do. It’s that you would know who He is.
It’s an imperative born out of compassion, not out of cruelty. This is God’s method of teaching us to draw near to Him. And in that process, we receive so much more than just good instructions. We experience deeper intimacy with God Himself.
So get a match and burn the plows!
Walk In Faith
Pastor Rick Edwards