It would have been much appreciated if the wagon or carriage had made a tight turn, with only the fifth wheel to keep it from tumbling.
Have you ever felt like a “fifth wheel?” Perhaps you thought you were useless or even in the way. “I feel so unnecessary,” was a phrase copied from an old TV show.
But the fifth wheel is valuable. For the wagon and carriages, it provides balance and support, although it was not lauded or praised.
A pastor took on his duties at a church, where the previous pastor’s wife had been an obvious “helper.” The former pastor’s wife had been a great entertainer for visitors to the home, she sang in the choir, she took a lead in the fundraising, she oversaw the quilting club and so forth. Feeling somewhat intimidated, the new minister’s wife told one of the church ladies, “I don’t sing, I don’t play any musical instrument, I’m not a teacher, I can’t sew and I’m not a great cook. All I really do is take care of my husband and pray for him and the church members.”
Wow. She was a “fifth wheel.” And she didn’t know how valuable she was — both to her husband and to the church. Her husband was known to be a good pastor and no doubt, much of his success was owed to his wife — the fifth wheel, who had provided support and balance through the years.
Years ago, a famous evangelist was introduced with the telling about the large number of people who came to know Christ in his revivals. Someone asked him his secret. He showed them to a back room. “This is my secret,” he began. “Every night during the service, several women meet in this room and pray,” he said, “and that’s where the power comes from.” Yes, his fifth wheel was functioning.
In the Bible, also, we find some fifth wheels. When Peter was cast into prison, “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” This “fifth-wheel” intercession opened the prison gates and Peter was led out by an angel (Acts 12:4-11).
Paul, too, benefitted from a fifth wheel — Barnabas, the encourager. He was the one who showed confidence in Paul with his support and trust. How he was needed!
In the Old Testament, we see Mordecai, the cousin of Esther, who was a servant in the palace of King Ahasuerus. In a sense, Mordecai was Esther’s fifth wheel.
It was this wise man who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity who gave Esther the advice that led to her being made queen. He was her support and balance — her fifth wheel.
The disciples had this request to Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 KJV). They didn’t ask Him to teach them to preach, teach them to be successful or teach them how to win souls. But they asked for the vital thing in carrying out the Great Commission — “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
And I say, “Lord, help me to be willing to be a fifth wheel.”