Luke 14: 25 – 35 The cost of being a disciple
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”
‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war with another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out.
‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’
* * *
In the first paragraph, when Jesus uses the word ‘hate’ he doesn’t do so in the sense that we would mean it today. It’s a Hebrew idiom that expresses a strong preference for one thing over another. In this instance, Jesus is saying that we must consistently do his will, even if it is in conflict with the wishes or needs of family members. If you don’t obey Jesus, you are making something else your god.
Indeed, he goes further. A disciple has to ‘hate’ their own life. In fact, “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”. To be a disciple, you have to be prepared to give up everything, even life itself.
Of course, most of us are not called to be martyrs – although even today some people do suffer martyrdom for Jesus. But the point is that to follow Jesus we have to say “Yes, Lord,” to the possibility.
Paragraphs two and three are quite difficult. They refer to counting the cost of discipleship. My first thought was “It’s okay to count the cost, but what about the cost of not building the tower, or of not waging war with the hostile king?”
What is the cost of not being a disciple?
If you count your money and you can’t afford to build the tower and never start, you’re guaranteed to fail. Likewise, what are left with if you capitulate to the hostile king with the large army?
Then I realised that the tower is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of the hostile monarch is the kingdom of God. Few of us could afford to build a tower; even fewer have thousands of soldiers under their command. And none of us have enough resource to buy a place in heaven; that is God’s free gift alone.
Yesterday, in thinking about the parable of the great banquet, I wrote that we can only enter the banquet when we realise our own extreme need of spiritual salvation. Today’s teaching is the other side of the same coin. When we accept salvation, we must not allow anything to come between us and God. Nothing must be more precious than the gift of salvation.
It is the pearl of great price, for which the merchant sold everything he had. So, for me that means all my income, my savings, my dwelling, my car, must be at God’s disposal. I have them on loan from him, but he has first call.
The meaning of this passage, at least for me, has now become clear. It is warning me, ahead of time, that I must be ready to surrender everything if I am to follow Jesus.
Thank you for calling me to follow Jesus. Thank you for warning me as to what it may cost me in human terms. Thank you for the free gift of the Holy Spirit who will help me to be obedient.
In Jesus’ name, Amen