Luke is continuing to teach us about who can and cannot be in the kingdom of Christ. Not everyone can be a disciple of Jesus. We saw in Luke 13 that there will be many who desire to enter, but few will enter through the narrow door. Luke explores the cost of following Jesus.
Recognize The Cost
The scene begins with great crowds following Jesus. Jesus turns and addresses the crowd that is accompanying him. Jesus tells them that they must hate their families and their own lives to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus is teaching that a disciple must forsake all relationships and desires. “Hate” does not mean we are to have an emotional hate toward our family, but that we will love them less than Jesus. Following Jesus is the disciple’s first love. Following Jesus is to have priority over any family member and one’s own life. Other concerns take second place to following Jesus. Discipleship is a call to allegiance. Jesus is to have first place over all, including family.
At that time, a Jewish person who made a choice for Jesus would alienate his family. A decision for Christ marked a person and automatically came with a cost. The point is that only when one forsakes all others is one following Jesus, otherwise something else will have a greater pull on one’s allegiances than Jesus does.
Jesus must mean more to us than our families, no matter how much we love them. There are times when our love for our families tries to get in the way of our love for Jesus. It does this when we let our parents discourage us from making a complete commitment to Christ. It does when a marriage turns inward instead of outward to serve others out of the strength of a godly partnership, or when we have an idolatrous attachment to our children and their activities, with little time left over to show mercy or share the gospel. Jesus is telling us not to let the claims that our families make on us interfere with the claims that he makes on us. Many temptations come with focusing on our family, and our love for Jesus must take precedence over everything. Unless Jesus is our highest affection, we cannot be his disciples. We must love Jesus more.
Self-denial is also part of the cost. We must love Jesus more than our own being. The process of discipleship is stressed here, not the decision to enter into it (verbs are in the present tense in verse 27). To follow Jesus means we will follow in suffering because the world rejects the disciple of Jesus. Bearing the cross means we are willing to bear the pain of persecution as a result of following Jesus. Discipleship is not an invitation to ease and comfort but demands sacrifice and suffering. Discipleship involves more than showing up. Jesus is calling for a passionate pursuit of him. Only a passionate pursuit will have the dedication and resolve to give up anything to be with Jesus.
Jesus does not remove the cost of following him, but explains the cost. Unlike churches today that try to eliminate all the costs so that it is easy to follow, but this is not being a disciple of Jesus but a disciple of self. Christianity today is being promoted as glorified, holy coffeehouses where you can get your coffee, listen to some music, and be entertained. We must offer nothing more than Jesus. What more is there to offer? Bringing people in with anything else to not make disciples of Jesus, but disciples of self.
Assessing The Cost
Jesus gives two illustrations concerning the need to assess the cost of following Jesus. The first illustration is of building a tower. The tower here likely does not refer to a fortress tower, but one more like a farming building. A parallel would be building an addition to one’s house. Not counting the cost means the project will not be completed. The building will stand unfinished, as a monument to one’s foolishness. Jesus declares that one must assess whether one is ready to take on the personal commitment and sacrifice required to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is not an invitation to an ice cream social. Jesus has described the cost of following him, recognizing that all other concerns take second place to following Jesus. The Christian life will cost us everything to follow him. Therefore, we need to sit down and decide whether we can pay that price.
The second illustration is fairly similar and it concerns a king going to war. A king must calculate the cost before going into the battle. To avoid an embarrassing and deadly outcome, one is to count the cost. It is foolish to not consider what it will take to be a disciple. But there is an interesting depth that is found in the illustration. The king must consider what the cost will be for not allying himself with the more powerful king. Verse 32 makes this point. If the king recognizes he will not be successful, then he will wisely send a delegation for peace. Faced with the threat of a superior army, the weaker party should consider his resources carefully before deciding to defend himself. We must consider the cost of non-discipleship. The first question we must ask is whether we can afford to follow Jesus. The next question we must ask is whether we can afford not to follow Jesus.
Recognize The Cost
Therefore, we must carefully consider what Jesus is asking us to do and recognize what it will cost us if we do not follow him. First, the cost is stated again in verse 33. If we do not renounce all that we have we cannot be his disciple. We are called to give up all that we have. At the beginning of this teaching Jesus said that we have to give up family and we have to give up ourselves. We have to give up our very lives. We must give up everything to be a follower of Jesus. There is nothing that we get to keep for ourselves. There is nothing that is not required to be placed on the altar before the Lord. Jesus is not asking us to make room in our lives for him. He is telling us to get rid of everything to follow him. We cannot think that what God is asking of us is small. We do a great disservice to the world if we indicate that entering the kingdom of God is easy and following Jesus is simple. We are deceiving people if we suggest that a person does not have to do much to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus says we must give up everything. We can hold nothing back. There is nothing we get to keep in our hands. In our previous study I tried to make the point that anything we are holding back, giving our attention to, or trying to keep is an idol. We are declaring that the person, object, or activity is more important than Jesus. We are treasuring something or loving someone more than Jesus. We must renounce all things, all pursuits, all comforts, all desires, all causes, all crusades, and efforts and subject them to Jesus. Being a disciple requires the abandonment of all projects, plans, and personal goals. Otherwise we are not his disciple. It is not a question of how little one can give but how much does God deserve. He deserves everything we are, everything we have, and everything we cherish and prize.
Second, we must consider the cost of not following Jesus. Look at verses 34-35. If salt is no longer salt, what is it good for? Salt that has lost its saltiness has no value. It cannot be used for anything. Carefully read the words: “It is thrown away.” That salt is cast out. The cost of not following Jesus is enormous. You will be cast out. You will be cast out of God’s presence. You will be cast out of his kingdom. You will be cast into the lake of fire. You will be cast into eternal torment. You will be cast into the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Grace comes with demands. Jesus expects nothing that he has not already accepted for himself. If you are a disciple, do not quit. Everyone quits today. Everything that matters is hard and costly. Do not quit. Things get tough and too often we quit because it is hard. Younger generations truly reflect this. You are going to face pressure to not intensely follow Jesus. One of the purposes of our community groups is to help each other to not quit. But count the cost of not following Jesus. You will lose everything anyway. You will lose everything that matters to you.