One of the pieces of evidence that the Bible is the inspired word of God is the way the Holy Spirit takes a verse we may have read many times and impresses a lesson from it upon us personally. That happened to me with this verse a few months ago; and it has continued to grip me every time I read it. I found myself wondering about the wisdom of getting involved in a work opportunity that could have impacted on my freedom to preach the gospel. Then God spoke through Luke chapter 9 verse 60.
In this second main section of Luke’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus begins His journey to Jerusalem. The disciples are going to learn that there will be personal sacrifice in following the Lord. He teaches them that the path of discipleship is not one associated with rest or comfort on earth. The Lord then turns to a man and commands, ‘Follow me’.
Luke records that the man asks to be excused so he can first bury his father. There is no indication that his father was dead yet! He uses what might be thought to be a legitimate excuse of family responsibilities to avoid obeying the Lord’s command, but the Lord Jesus replies, ‘Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God’.
As I understand the verse, the Lord Jesus was telling the man that the spiritually dead could deal with the burial of the dead. In other words, there are certain responsibilities that unsaved men can fulfil perfectly well. He, however, was commanded to go and preach that men should repent and receive the King. Only believers can do this.
This verse has impressed itself upon me in relation to my priorities and the use of time. There is a danger that a believer wastes time on sinful or worthless pursuits. However, there is also a possibility that they could be diverted from their primary calling by being taken up with legitimate commitments that are not where God would have them spend their time.
There are many worthy causes in our communities. There may be times for the sake of the reputation of the Lord and the local church when it is prudent to help. It would be a sad indictment on us if believers were the people who never show kindness to the elderly or provide help in the local school when volunteers are needed. However, we must never forget that our primary calling is to reach people with the gospel of Christ.
I have not managed yet to get these issues completely in balance in my life, but this verse helps me decide how I manage my time. Is the commitment or obligation core to my identity as a Christian? How does it fit with my personal calling? Could an unsaved person equally carry out the task? Is it legitimate and helpful for the advancement of the gospel? Why am I undertaking it?
‘Letting the dead bury the dead’ partly informs my decision not to be involved in the political system and to ask why I spend time in any charitable cause. Is it being done as part of secular employment? Is it being done with the advancement of the gospel in mind or is it a drain on my time that diverts me from my core responsibilities as a Christian?
I am praying that this verse will also help you prioritize spiritual commitments and obligations in your life.
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