Shake the Dust Off and Move On

“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
– Mark 6:11 (NIV)

As Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to preach the Gospel, he directed them to take nothing with them but the clothes on their backs. They were to rest in the homes and towns of those who welcomed them as long as they preached in a certain area. If they were not welcomed by those who did not believe, they were to “shake the dust” from their feet and move on. In other words, they were to take nothing with them from those who did not believe, not even the dust of that household or town. Jesus simply instructed them to move on to others who would listen. He was basically telling them, “Once you have shared the Truth, don’t waste your time with those who cannot hear the Truth.”

Recently, I was watching a program on television that highlighted the behavior of an active addict. Those who loved the addict were doing everything they could to help her find her way to recovery from her addiction. At every offer of assistance and guidance, she turned away from the light of recovery and back to the darkness of her addiction. Sadly, this is not a rare occurrence in the world of addictive behavior. The family and friends of an addict are rarely able to help the addict find their way to recovery. Worse yet is when the addict enters recovery simply to get their family and friends off their back. Then, other addicts (who may be genuine about their desire to recover) and professionals in the field of recovery are brought into the picture and also ignored or manipulated by the addict. This is when the words of Jesus to his disciples can come in handy.

Most recovering addicts know how good it feels to help an active addict find their way to sobriety in recovery. In fact, it is well documented that most recovery truly begins only when one addict shares their story with the other. The identification shared between two who have experienced many of the same fears, heartaches and traumas builds a bond in no time at all. For an addict in recovery, this sort of service work is the lifeblood of their program. In fact, it can be quite a rush to work with someone who is absolutely desperate to feel better and willing to do anything suggested. That said, when the active addict is instead manipulative and deceitful in response, or completely sarcastic and unwilling, the recovering addict would be wise to “shake the dust” off their feet and move on. It can jeopardize the recovering addict’s own program of recovery if they continue trying to help someone who “cannot hear the Truth.” It is dangerous for anyone in recovery to think that they are the only one who can help a particular person. It is even more dangerous for them to think that they have the power to make someone else understand, especially when the other person doesn’t care to understand. Those attitudes open the door to ego and pride; and anyone in recovery knows the danger in that!

I wonder if, when Jesus told his disciples to “shake the dust” off their feet, he was worried about their ego and pride showing up as well? The main idea behind this verse has most often been explained in relation to wasting no time with unbelievers. But, my guess is that Jesus also knew his disciples better than they knew themselves. He knew that their egos and their pride might show up and keep them tied to someone or something that may eventually cause them to fall away from the Truth. In telling them to walk away from the unbelievers, he was giving them permission to let go of the need to convince the world. He was giving them permission to move on from fruitless ventures. He was giving them permission to protect themselves from the cynicism of others, and the unrevealed doubt that may still lie within their own hearts.

Oh, how well our Lord knows us! Oh, how well our Lord cares for us!



  1. Thank you, Jessica. I had never thought of this verse in such a way before. Jesus was not telling the disciples to abandon unbelievers, he was telling them no to abandon themselves in the process of trying to influence others. That is amazing. That is “Let Go and Let God” at it’s core. Thanks you so much. I need to hear this for my personal life, professional life, and recovery.
    Stacey S.

    Liked by 1 person

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