New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Cost of Discipleship

Price, value, worth, expense, charge, fee, payment, fare, bill, surcharge, invoice – words that are associated with “cost”.

Cost is not a foreign concept to us moderns. As a matter of fact, the list above is a only a small fraction of synonyms available for the concept of cost in our society. One list online included over 1000 synonyms for the concept of cost.

Cost is defined as the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something, or the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.

Let’s take a look at a parable that centers around the concept of cost.

Luke 14

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

This parable is set up with the proceeding three verses, where the Lord is speaking to “great crowds”.

Luke 14

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,
26 “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.
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

These verses not only tell us of who Jesus was addressing his comments to, but also the general topic of discipleship. Jesus finishes His discussion of cost with the summary statement of the cost of discipleship in verse 33. But I am getting ahead of myself.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out Events of Jesus Life.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Why did the Lord give this message?

He must have been journeying, possibly towards Jerusalem, where the cost of our salvation may have been on His heart, when He turned to warn those who were with Him of the cost of following Him.

What was the message for the original audience?

The basis for this message is found in the verses before, where the Lord speaks of hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, – even your own life!

As many who read this know, I have been discussing the concept of hate in the Word with some readers who lean in the theistic determinist camp, (i.e. Calvinists). I understand they take the concept of hatred quite literally in regards to Esau, and by extension, to all those not chosen by God for salvation.

This concept has focused my understanding of the verse in our reading today, in that when the Lord speaks of hatred towards father, mother…..,

In my humble opinion, He speaks of a “priority of love”, not a literal hatred against those whom the Father has commanded us to honor. (That alone introduces a contradiction I can’t get beyond!)

The message for the original audience was to count the cost, to realize that allegiance was to be to Jesus above all others, above every loved one in their life, even above their own self interest! This is radical, extreme, overboard and what the Lord demands from those who say they follow.

This message, just a number of weeks away from the passion of the Christ, was fitting, as a warning to all. It was a volley over the heads of those who claimed allegiance to Him, in order to understand the price they would pay.

Be prepared. Count the cost.

Jesus illustrated the shame of not preparing by speaking of two situations, where both subjects needed to count the cost to accomplish their end game.

First was a builder, one who wanted to build a tower. This I can readily connect with, since I am involved in the building industry. Clients request Class 3 construction cost estimates, in order to make decisions to allocate funds to the specific project under consideration. Providing this type of estimate is difficult, since so many variables are involved. Yet without some plan on paper, it is all just wishful thinking.

My clients need this information in order to count their cost to get a goal accomplished. It is interesting to consider that if the cost is too high, their is no shame in confessing that the project will be abandoned before it begins. No shame at all. The shame comes, as Jesus notes, in laying the foundation, and then not being able to complete it. The foundation will always be visible for all to mock!

Secondly, a king is going out to war, woefully undersized against his opponent. Planning, strategy and wisdom in war is required to decide on his best course of action. If he is a brilliant warrior, his army may succeed, and win the battle. Yet, he needs to understand his opponent, before he can make an informed decision. He must understand his opponent!

Both of these examples have one thing in common – that is the cost of a decision needs to be understood, they needed to count the cost.

What will each man need to pay in order to accomplish his goals?

What is the message for us today?

This is a cost/benefit analysis that the Lord is directing all to perform. I hope I am not becoming too technical in this application, but I trust that all who read the term cost/benefit get a taste of what I am trying to communicate.

Remember, one of the definitions of cost is “the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something, or the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.”

The object is to be a disciple of Jesus. The cost is “renouncing all that he has”.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

ALL?

He must not literally mean “all”! That term must be modified in order to be understood with some clarification, some mysterious adjustment or revision to our common understanding of “everything”. Of course I am being waggish in my last statement, since the term “all” has also been a topic of discussion on a previous post.

Back to our parable.

When the Lord states “all” it is commonly accepted that the term “all” means “all”. And yet it appears that there are many instances where the disciples of the Lord, even after the resurrection, are still in possession of boats, and homes and fields.

Maybe the term all isn’t where the focus of the statement should reside.

Let’s consider the term renounce. This may give us some insight into how we relate to “all” that we are and have.

The term renounce is transliterated from the Greek text apotassō. This term is found in the following verses in the New Testament (italicized)

Mark 6:46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Luke 9:61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Acts 18:18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
Acts 18:21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
2 Corinthians 2:13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

This helps me immensely, since “taking leave” doesn’t imply a breaking of relationship with those being left. In Mark, Jesus left the disciples, those he was counting on to continue His mission, in order to pray, since this was a priority for the Messiah.

In Acts 18, Paul took leave of the brothers, because they were prioritized below God’s requirement on Paul’s mission. He stated he would return, based on God’s will. He wanted to be with them, but had prioritized his life above his desire to be with his friends.

My friends, this parable is about prioritizing the LORD above all, to consider all that you have and are, and your willingness to “say farewell” to all. I am persuaded that this is an ongoing struggle for all Christians, since at the start of anyone’s pilgrimage, he/she doesn’t understand all that will enter their lives during their walk with God.

The most obvious example is the decision to marry or to have children. Prior to these actions, when I read this passage of renouncing all, it was much less complicated than now. Now that I am married and have children, it is a different situation!

Is the condition of “renouncing all” any less binding? Of course not. Is it any less challenging? On the contrary, my struggles only deepen.

Let me give you an example.

At one point in my pilgrimage, I prayed for a certain outcome for the Lord to perform for me. I begged the Lord to answer my prayer, and for weeks heard nothing from Him. I pleaded, bargained, cried out to God, and yet never considered “Thy will be done”

I had to come to the point of allowing one of my children to be taken away from me, before the Lord would answer me in prayer. I had to renounce my will for my child in order for the Lord to be the One whose will I sought. This is no small matter, as many who read may have had similar experiences.

Yet, in all this, the Lord showed tremendous mercy to a poor sinner like I, in that after my repentance and sincere request for His will to be performed, my child was rescued from the danger, and has been allowed to flourish. Of course, there have been other times when the Lord has said no, even after my will has bent to His. This is the will of God!

To those who are struggling with a decision to obey, (and I am speaking to the one typing!) say farewell to those things that are more important than the Lord’s will.

Find the Lord’s will. Focus on the Lord’s will, not your own.



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