Consider the Cost
It is a dreaded topic. It is probably not preached enough. And when it is preached I rarely leave feeling very good about the overall outlook on things. I am referring to Luke 14:25-34. If your bible has section titles it probably says something like,The Cost of Being a Disciple.
The passage is jolting from the very beginning. Luke tells us that “large crowds were traveling with Jesus” (Luke 14:25), when he turned to them and said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
It seems that Jesus was not very well versed in church growth strategies. He had large crowds following Him. Why would He turn around and say something like this? Something so offensive? It reminds me of another episode when Jesus delivered a “hard teaching” in the Gospel of John. He was talking about the need to drink His blood and eat His body. John says it was at that time that “…many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him” (John 6:66).
Does Jesus have an aversion to crowds? I don’t think so. Is Jesus masochistic? Certainly not. There seems to be some sort of test in these hard teachings. However, I wonder if we are missing a critical aspect of the test. We hear the challenge in Jesus’ teachings. We recognize that He is saying to us, “You need to realize now that this will cost you everything.” I do not wish to minimize that aspect of His teaching. But I do want to lift up the other side of His teaching, and I suspect that it might radically change the way we experience Jesus’ instruction to consider the cost.
You see, consdiering the cost will only deter you if you do nothing but literally add up the cost. I could walk through a store and see that there is a special sale by which I could by three nice suits for twenty dollars. If all I do is add up the cost I might say to myself, “This will cost me twenty dollars! I’ll never get that twenty dollars back. I can’t do this. I can’t lose my twenty dollars.”
If I do nothing more than add up the cost of the twenty dollars then I will walk away from what would have been the best sale on dress suits that I have ever seen. But Jesus is asking his disciples to do more than add up the cost. The good news in considering the cost is that we come to realize that this is the best deal that we will ever encounter in our lives. Once we consider the cost we realize that what we are getting is far more valuable than the price that we are paying. Once we consider the cost we understand that giving everything we have, even our very life, is nothing compared to the treasure that is in Him.
After Jesus teaches His disciples to consider the cost notice the shift in the crowd. Before the teaching Luke tells us that “large crowds were traveling with Jesus” (Luke 14:25). After the teaching Luke immediately tells us, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were gathering to hear Him” (Luke 15:1). After this teaching the religious folks had moved to the background, if not departed altogether. Only a few pharisees and teachers stood at the back muttering about the company that Jesus was keeping (Luke 15:2). To them Jesus was saying a difficult thing. But the sinners were understanding that this was the best deal that they would ever hear in their entire lives.
You can see this good news in the stories that Jesus goes on to teach: the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), and the parable of the lost (prodigal) son (Luke 15:11-32). Here we see that what sounded like a hard teaching to the Pharisees sounded like the most joyous occasions for celebration to the sinners.
Matthew records Jesus making the point very clearly:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44
This dynamic is so simple, and yet so profound. I don’t throw the word marvel around too often, but I do not know a better way to say it. I marvel at the wisdom here. Jesus says, “Consider what you will lose (your life), and then consider all that you will gain (His life).” The thing that cooks my noodle is the fact that the state of your heart will determine how you hear the parable. If you’re holding onto your life you will think, “Oh no! He is asking me to give up everything!” But if you’re holding onto Him you will think, “Oh my! He is giving me everything!”
The hearing is dictated by your heart, which is why Jesus ends His teaching on considering the cost by saying, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Luke 14:35). Perhaps you have never heard this parable in its fullness because of some things you are holding onto in your heart. If that is the case, do not be discouraged. Jesus invites you to do a simple thing. He invites you to consider the cost. Truly consider the cost, not just add up the cost and stop. If you consider the cost all the way to its end your heart will change, you will hear the rest of the message, and you will rejoice at the opportunity to give what you cannot keep in order to gain what you cannot lose.