To go, or not to go?

“Go not from house to house” (Luke 10:7b)

Why on earth would Jesus advise his followers not to go from house to house? Isn’t that contrary to what he told them elsewhere? Isn’t that the essence of evangelism?

Albert Barnes shared this useful quote from Dr. Thompson, whose classic studies on Palestine (The Land and the Book) illuminate the scene:

“The reason (for the command, ‘Go not from house to house’) is very obvious to one acquainted with Oriental customs. When a stranger arrives in a village or an encampment, the neighbors, one after another, must invite him to eat with them. There is a strict etiquette about it, involving much ostentation and hypocrisy, and a failure in the due observance of this system of hospitality is violently resented, and often leads to alienations and feuds among neighbors; it also consumes much time, causes unusual distraction of mind, leads to levity, and every way counteracts the success of a spiritual mission.”

In the present text, when Jesus sent out his first group of preachers on this limited mission to awaken the Jews of Palestine, he expected them to get the job done in a timely way. His mission was brief. There was no time for idleness. Bowing to every cumbersome social nicety was not on the docket.

Barnes added, in his notes on Matthew’s account of the same directive, that there are abiding principles for us to consider today: “If ministers of the gospel are useful, it will be by not spending their time in idle chit-chat, and wandering around as if they had nothing to do, but in an honest and laborious improvement of their time in study, in prayer, in preaching, and in visiting their people” (Matthew 10:10).

It is a privilege to be able to “go” for Jesus. The gospel is the greatest message the world has ever known, or can ever know. It commands the utmost respect, and deserves the pinnacle of priority. There is no good reason for a Christian – and the whole church – to let the progress of the gospel take a back seat to anything.

Let us always strive to strike the balance between going and going not.

And certainly, let us not embarrass ourselves with foolish priorities, and by such weaken the influence of his glorious message.

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