Luke Parables of Jesus: The Cost of Discipleship
“Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
“Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 14:25-335 NASB1995
The third parable in Luke 14 is embedded in these verses at the end of the chapter. These are among the most controversial and difficult commands from Jesus and are often cited by non-believers as evidence that Christianity is an impossible and non-loving religion, especially in our comfortable 21st-century world. The gift of grace from God is free but the cost after we accept it is enormous. We must put Jesus first (love Him far above any other human in our lives), we must carry our own cross, and we must consider the true cost of discipleship. He also says that no one can be a disciple of His without giving up everything that they own (everything we own is His). Jesus is talking to a large crowd (this is after the dinner with the Pharisees) following Him and He wants to make it clear what His expectations are for any serious disciples in the group. He has wooed many to Him with clear preaching and miracles and now wants to winnow the herd to the truly devoted. Finally, at the end of the parable He tells the crowd that the cost of not following Him is to be like salt that has been corrupted and lost its flavor (similar to the Salt and Light teaching in the Sermon on the Mount).
The parable begins, at verse 28, when Jesus talks about the cost of building a tower (in bold in the excerpt from Luke 14). Slapping together a towering structure without first considering all of the costs to complete it is sheer folly and may result in only a foundation and no funds to complete the tower, plus enduring the ridicule from others. Similarly, a king must weigh if his forces are strong enough to defeat another king in battle and press for peace if it is likely he may lose his troops and his cause. Jesus does not exclude anyone who truly believes that He is their salvation, but He wants us to know that once we go down that path, the expectations and costs are big for the believer. If we are half-hearted in our belief, then we are like the short-sighted and underfunded tower builder and the arrogant king who wants battle without calculating the costs.
Often we see televised evangelical events that show many souls being saved, but no one ever goes back to see if the decision to follow Christ “stuck” or if it was a short-lived emotional reaction to the preaching and music and seeing other people go forward. Some evangelists estimate that only 10-15% of the “saved” go on to the path of sanctification with the help of the Holy Spirit. The costs of our lives of discipleship include the acknowledgement that everything we have and “own” is His and our relationship with Him trumps all of our earthly family relationships. There will be difficulties and persecution to endure and sinful habits to discard, which are the crosses we bear. I read a commentary that compared it to a person who desired to climb Mt. Everest. He is motivated but can’t afford the cost of the journey. He is offered a sponsorship to pay for the entire costs of the expedition, but now the price had to be paid in the discipline and training required to succeed in a very difficult task and his life may be at risk. To help illustrate this another way here is a short Commentary by David Guzik on this passage:
c. Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple: We have a difficult challenge in understanding and communicating the gospel here; there are two extremes to avoid.
i. We can never give people the impression that they have to clean up their lives before they come to Jesus; that is like washing up before you take a bath.
ii. Yet likewise we can never give people the impression that Jesus won’t want to clean up their lives with their cooperation after they come to Him.
iii. It is important for every potential disciple – those of the great multitudes that followed and heard Jesus (Luke 14:25) – to consider the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Yet those who choose to reject and resist God should count that cost as well. What possible good can come from opposing God? It costs something to be the disciple of Jesus; it costs more to reject Him.
The work begins when you accept Jesus. It is a fundamental transformation of self to be in Him. It is a wonderful challenge and not “comfortable” as C.S. Lewis would say:
I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.
My next devotional will examine the short parables in Luke 15:1-10, The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.
Commentary by David Guzik on Enduring Word is used by written permission.
C.S. Lewis quote by A-Z quotes.