Whenever engaging in any task that is significant, we should always consider the cost and make sure we have what we need to be successful. If, for example, I am intending to successfully drive across the country in my car, I should not begin my journey without making sure I have enough gas and gas money. If I plan to go camping for a week in the mountains by myself, I better make sure I bring enough camping supplies before I head up. If I agree to treat a bunch of friends to dinner, I had better make sure I have enough money to fit the bill before I begin the feast. (I was in a similar situation like this not long ago, thinking that I had what I did not.) If I don’t do these things and prepare myself adequately to take on significant endeavors, I will undoubtedly be setting myself up for failure and embarrassment.
Only a fool would endeavor to do grand things without forethought and preparation. And this is the same idea that Jesus teaches in this text: If we are going to be His disciples, we must be sure that we consider all that it takes! We must be sure to count the cost because following Jesus is no light thing.
But what is the cost? What does it take?
“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.” (Luke 14: 26-27)
“Whoa! Wait a minute! What? Why would He say that we must “hate” our loved-ones? That can’t be right!”
Well, let’s consider the context. Jesus had masses of people following Him because the things they had heard or seen him do. Many of these people were like groupies or fanatics. Some of these people were there only for the excitement and entertainment. Many were not following Him because He was the Son of God but because they wanted what He had. People had their own selfish interests in mind.
This reminds me of people who may not associate themselves with you until you start becoming popular or until God blesses you in some kind of public way. Then, all of sudden, it seems all kinds of people want to be your friend who had no interest before. Even people who disliked you seem to be trying to be-friend you. And when all the fame and fortune and favor goes away, those same people seem to go away just as quickly. Why? Because they weren’t really there for you, they just wanted what you had. If a spouse or friend “abandons ship” as soon as things get tough, if an employee or business partner quits not long after working with you in order to take a better deal, then they probably were never there for you in the first place. They were there for what they could get from you.
How can you tell the difference between those who are really for you and those who are for your stuff? And what about yourself? How would you rate your own loyalty to God? Do you abandon ship when trials come? Have you run back to your old self and coping methods when God didn’t give you the immediate results you were looking for? How do you know if you are really there for God and not just for His stuff?
So Jesus faced this situation often. He had all sorts of people following him who were not really there for Him. In one situation (John 6), Jesus addresses the people who were following him and declared that they were only there because they were well-fed and wanted to do the works He did. When He tells them that they need to work toward believing on Him, they ask to see a miracle and sign like Moses was able to have bread come from heaven. Jesus replies that He is the bread from heaven:
53 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
After He said this, many of his so-called “disciples” turned away and stopped following him. This was a hard saying to them because they were in a carnal state of mind. Yet, we see how effective and truthful it was!
So back to today’s scripture, how are we feeling? Are we offended that He says that we must hate our loved ones and even our own lives? Is this too hard of a saying for us to swallow? I hope not. The Word of God is sharp and separates out those who are not serious about Him. Believing on Him means loving Him more than our families and our own lives. Believing on Him means loving Him so much that, for His sake, we could forsake all that we love in this world. It is no light thing to be a Christian, and yet it seems that in America it has become a very light thing.
Jesus shares the analogy of someone building a tower and not having enough resources to go beyond the foundation and a king going to make war but doesn’t consider whether he is able to win with the significantly fewer soldiers he has. His teaching suggest that this sort of action is foolish. You should not presumptuously endeavor to do something great without paying the cost. In the same way, how could people endeavor to call themselves Christian and claim to follow Him but not deny themselves and bear their crosses daily.
” …Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (33)
Have we truly considered this cost? Are we truly forsaking what we have? Or is the devil and his demons pointing and laughing at us because we are fooling ourselves? Will the enemy end up taking us captive because of our pride and presumption about the need to forsake our lives?
‘Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (34-35)
Claiming to be a disciple or Christian but lacking the life-saving characteristics, lacking the flavoring qualities that make us distinct, would render us and our title useless. A battle that we’ll probably continue to face in our own minds as we continue to grow in Christ is whether or not we have to forsake ALL we have. We must fight the good fight of faith and trust in His Word. The agenda of the devil is to get us to continue to love this world and ourselves more than we do the Word of God. So this is a serious thing and a serious fight. And we are no good if we settle on a form of godliness but lack the power thereof. There is more to Christ than a religion. We must truly push forward and think deeply about whether or not we’re paying the cost or just Christian in name. We must consider whether or not we are willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Let us pay this cost!