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.’ (Luke 14:25-27)
How amazing it must have been to walk with Jesus. The text above speaks of a great multitude who had such an opportunity. Why did Jesus decide to caution those who followed Him this day about the cost of discipleship? We don’t know, but they would benefit from the warning and so will we.
It’s important to understand, He is not encouraging folks to hate family members. In Matthew’s parallel, it’s rendered “love less.” If we are going to follow the Lord, we must love Him more than all. Our family cannot come first, our life cannot come first. If we are going to be a Christian, Jesus must come first and foremost.
It’s one thing to say we will put Jesus first, but quite another to do it. Jesus provided a few illustrations to help us understand the degree of commitment needed and the importance of making a sound and wise choice.
Jesus said we need to take up our cross and follow Him. In the first century, the cross was not a pendant on a necklace or a painting on a wall—it was a tool of death. The only one who would take up a cross was the one who was condemned to die upon it. The Lord wants us to count ourselves as dead. Hear the words of the apostle Paul,
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Later in the same book, Paul would say that we have crucified the flesh with its desires (Galatians 5:24) and that the world is crucified to us, and us to the world (Galatians 6:14). We are not talking about a casual commitment to Christ. It involves devoting ourselves to serving the Lord in all that we do, and making sure that He is the priority in our lives.
Jesus continues to teach the crowd:
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. (Luke 14:28-33)
We make some decisions in life without putting too much thought into it. What shirt will I wear today? What will we eat for breakfast? Which gas station will I fill up at? In the grand scheme, these are really unimportant decisions. However, there are other decisions that require plenty of forethought and prayerful consideration. The decision to follow Christ is of that sort.
Jesus illustrates the necessity of longevity in our decision to follow Him. If a man decides to build a tower or a house, and fails to carefully plan out the costs associated with it, he may find himself with a half-built structure that is of no practical use, and that he cannot afford to finish. If then stands as evidence of his lack of foresight and preparation; it reveals him to be a fool, unable to properly plan his own building project. As sad as that may be, how much worse when the structure in question is a man’s faith in Christ? A faith that is not followed through to the end (1 Peter 1:9) is like a building that is partially done, but then discontinued. Such a building is good for nothing; likewise a faith left undone or deserted is useless.
Jesus gave another illustration, two kings who are going to battle against each other. The king who has an inferior army will want to look very seriously at whether he iss able to participate in the battle, or if he needs to plead with the greater king for conditions of peace. Friend, we are the first king, the one with the smaller army. The Lord is the other king—He is great and mighty and will defeat all who stand against Him. We cannot remain in our sin and set ourselves against the Lord and be victorious! We need conditions of peace, and thankfully, God has made peace for those who will come to Him in faith and obedience.
Friend, have you counted the cost of serving the Lord? Have you counted the cost of not serving Him? There is a huge cost if we do not serve the Lord—our soul is at stake! Therefore, may we count the cost, build our faith to completion, and submit our lives to the King of kings.