COUNTING THE COST
October 10, 2015
Luke 14:25-33, "Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 'If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.'"
In the above passage, Jesus taught a lesson commonly referred to as "The Cost of Discipleship." What Jesus taught here is some of the most difficult teaching He ever gave in the sense of the difficulty we have to bring ourselves to obey it.
Sometimes it is hard for Christians to put Christ above things of the world - and Jesus was not just talking about sinful things of the world. He spoke of father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even one's own life. In fact, Jesus taught that we must hate the people He listed here as well as our own life.
In this study, I want to examine Jesus' teaching and see what lessons we may gain from it with the hope that it will encourage all Christians to obey what Jesus taught.
"IF ANYONE COMES TO ME AND DOES NOT HATE..."
Jesus began His teaching by speaking about coming to Him and about hating members of our family. I think it might be good first to define the word disciple because Jesus said that we cannot be His disciples unless we follow the teaching given here.
The word disciple is often defined as a pupil or learner. But it actually means more than that. The Word Study Dictionary defines it like this: "A disciple is an adherent who accepts the instruction given to him and makes that instruction his rule of conduct." So, a disciple is not just a person who wants to learn. A disciple is a person who wants to learn so that he can apply what he learns to his life - so he can use what he learns to direct how he lives his life. The word "follower" is a good one word definition of disciple.
This is why the Bible calls the apostles disciples. They not only wanted to learn from Jesus, they wanted to follow Him - to obey Him - to live their lives like He taught them to live.
If you are a Christian and your goal is not to be a disciple of Christ, then there is some self-examination you need to do to see what is keeping you from that goal. One cannot be a disciple of Christ unless his desire is to learn what Jesus' will is for his life and then conform his life to that will.
When Jesus said that unless we do certain things we cannot be His disciples, He is saying the things that He taught are absolutely necessary in order to follow Him and obey Him.
But was Jesus actually commanding us to literally hate our father and mother and the other family members he lists? Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that the Bible teaches us to love our family (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:19; Titus 2:4), and that includes our spiritual family (Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 3:11; 4:7). Jesus Himself taught us to love each other, and that would necessarily have to include family members (John 13:34-35). Jesus even taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). Is there a contradiction in what the Bible teaches about love? Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that we are to hate our family members and both He and Paul taught in other passages that we are to love them? Is there a contradiction? Of course not.
I know that most Christians have heard that the word hate in this passage means "to love less." And, according to other passages, that is exactly what it means. In Matthew 10:37 we can see this. Jesus said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." In this verse Jesus gave a comparison between the degree of love we are to have for Christ and the degree of love we are to have for our family by using the phrase "more than Me." Jesus' teaching in Matthew 10:37 explains what He meant in Luke 14:26. In Matthew 10:37 He used literal language. In Luke 14:26 He used a hyperbole - a figure of speech - an exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. There is no doubt that when Jesus uses the word hate in Luke 14:26 that He was not using it literally. He was telling us that our love for Him must be so great in comparison to the love we have for members of our family, that our love for our family is like hatred in comparison. He is telling us that when a conflict arises as to whether to obey Jesus or obey mother or father for example, we must obey Jesus. He is telling us that our love for Him must be so great that when we must choose who to put first, mother, father, sister, brother, wife and children - or Jesus, there is no choice. We must put Jesus first!
So the lesson is that it costs something to be a disciple of Christ. It might even cost us the most valuable physical relationships we have on this earth - our family relationships. It might even cost us our life to be faithful to Christ. But we must love Christ more than we love our families and more than we love our own life. So, we need to count the cost of being a disciple of Christ.
"WHOEVER DOES NOT BEAR HIS CROSS..."
In verse 27 Jesus said, "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." In counting the cost of discipleship, there are some things we may have to give up, and there are some things we have to bear or carry with us. Jesus said we must bear our cross if we desire to come after Him and be His disciple.
The word "bear" means, "to carry, to take up and hold, support." There is something that we must carry with us through the Christian life. And the implication is that it is not something that is easy to bear or carry. Anyone who is a faithful Christian knows that there are things that are difficult to bear just because we are Christians. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus taught about entering into the kingdom of Heaven. He said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." When Jesus spoke of the narrow and wide gates, He was talking about the path we choose in how we live our lives. There is the narrow gate which leads to the difficult way and there is the wide gate which leads to the broad way. It is easy to go through the wide gate because there is plenty of room. It is easy to walk down the broad way because there is no opposition and no responsibilities. You can live like you want. You don't have to worship God. You don't have to be good or do good. You don't have to answer to anyone, or at least that is how it seems. But then there is the difficult way. The way that Jesus said few walk and few find. The way of responsibility. The way which causes opposition. The way which requires a certain way to live. The way which requires obedience and worship of God. The way which requires doing good and being good. The difference between these two ways is where each one leads. The wide gate and broad way leads to destruction - eternal loss of one's soul in Hell. The narrow gate and difficult way leads to life - eternal life in Heaven.
The person who is not willing to carry his cross is walking the broad way and heading straight for destruction. The person who is willing to come to Jesus and carry his cross is walking the difficult way and will receive eternal life. So you have the necessity of counting the cost. One can readily see from what Jesus taught here that there is a great price to be paid if we chose to enter the wide gate and walk the broad way.
So, what is the cross that Jesus said we must bear in Luke 14? It must be the cross of obedience and responsibility. It would necessarily include opposition and persecution. This is the cross we choose to carry when we become a Christian or a disciple of Christ. So, there are things we may have to give up to be faithful children of God, and there are things we must bear to be faithful children of God. We cannot be Jesus' disciples unless we are willing to do both.
So this means that there are things we must be willing to give up if those things come between us and Jesus - and that even includes people, like family members. And there are things we must bear - all the responsibilities of being a disciple of Christ including persecution and opposition.
BUILDING A TOWER - GOING TO BATTLE
Jesus used two illustrations to show the necessity of counting the cost - or we might more correctly say the foolishness of not counting the cost. Unfortunately, most people go through their life not considering the consequences of their decisions. We make decisions on the spur of the moment, never considering what those decisions may lead to. We let our passions or our desires - how we feel at the time - rule our decisions without thinking of the consequences.
Jesus shows how foolish this is when He spoke of the man who wanted to build a tower. If you are going to build a tower, the first thing you need to do is sit down and count the cost. Do you have enough money to build it and to pay people to help you? The man in Jesus' illustration did not count the cost. He began to build but was only able to finish the foundation and he was not able to build the rest of it. Jesus said as a result that people ridiculed him. We can appreciate this fact and we may even be one who would join in the ridicule. But what about us? Isn't it foolish for us to start out on the broad way and not count the cost of traveling that way. Or to start out on the narrow way and not be able to continue on that way because we put other things before our obedience to Jesus? We need to count the cost.
Jesus then gave the illustration of the king going out to meet another king in battle. He asked, will he not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with 10,000 to meet the other army who has 20,000 soldiers? We all realize the necessity of that. If the king sits down and counts the cost, he may realize that the cost is too great to lose his army in battle. The wise decision to make then would be to send a delegation and ask for terms of peace rather than go into battle and be defeated.
In the same way it is foolish for us to start down a path in life without first counting the cost - without first understanding the consequences of choosing that particular path.
The decisions we make in life should not be made without careful consideration of the facts and consideration of the consequences of such decisions. If we choose to walk the broad way, it might be fine for a time, but we need to look at the long-term consequences of that decision. If we choose to walk the difficult way, we need to look at the long-term consequences of that decision. If we look at the long-term consequences, we can easily see that the difficult way is the way to choose because it leads to eternal life. We must count the cost!
"FORSAKE ALL THAT YOU HAVE"
Jesus concluded His teaching by saying this, "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." This is what Jesus is teaching in this whole lesson. We must be willing to forsake all that we have to be His disciple. Does that mean that when we become a disciple of Christ or a Christian that we must immediately give up everything we own? Must we give away our homes, our cars, all the material things we possess? Must we leave our spouse and children, friends etc...?
Of course it does not. Again, this is an illustration of just how much we must be willing to give up if it interferes with our service to Him. It is not the immediate forsaking of all that we have, but the decision we make to be willing to forsake anything that interferes with our faithfulness to Christ. If it comes to the point where someone or something is causing us to be unfaithful to the Lord, we must be willing to give up that someone or something. That is what the lesson is.
Are you allowing things of the world, maybe friends or family or material things or even sinful things to cause you to forsake the Lord? If that is the case, please make application of Jesus' teaching today. Please realize your need to forsake those things that are coming between you and your obedience to the Lord. Remember Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). He also said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." There is no greater example of One keeping commandments than Jesus. If we desire to abide in His love, then we must follow His example and be obedient to the Father's commandments. Jesus taught that we must be willing to forsake all, bear our cross and come after Him. It is our prayer that all of us will see the necessity of obeying what Jesus taught in Luke 14:25-33.