When considering Christianity, we are presented with some challenging ideas. Many people struggle with, and misunderstand, the ideas Jesus presented to those who would follow him. Recorded in Luke 14:25-33, we see Jesus telling us to count the cost of discipleship right before this idea that if we don’t hate our mother, father, wife, children, brothers, sisters, then we cannot be a disciple. Hard words. But, what do they really mean?
Count the Cost
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NASB)
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:28-33 NASB)
What has this passage, taken by itself, led us to believe? The cost of discipleship is something that is so overwhelmingly taxing that we are breathless in the face of it. We say, “Hate my mom, hate my dad? What was Jesus talking about?” Sermon after sermon has been preached from the negative perspective and what happens is we start assessing the value of the things and people in our lives and begin to wonder to ourselves, “Is Jesus good? Is he worth this cost?”
Jesus’s point is that there absolutely is a cost to discipleship. But listen to what he says in Matthew 13:44-46.
What is Jesus implying here? The man in the parable found the treasure and hit it again. Why? Because he didn’t want anyone else to get it. In his joy at finding the treasure, he sells everything he has so that he can buy it. Is there a cost to discipleship? Absolutely. But, in the view of what the hope of God really is, it is not a measurable cost. It’s not a cost that we would wring our hands over, wondering if it’s too high.
These men are overcome with joy at the immensity of the treasure they found. So overwhelmed that they immediately sell everything to attain it. These are positive analogies. So, why do we view the cost of discipleship as a negative?Is there a cost to discipleship? Absolutely. But, it’s not a cost that we would wring our hands over, wondering if it’s too high. Click To Tweet
The Rich Young Ruler
And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. (Matthew 19:16-22 NASB)
After this man hears Jesus’s answer, what does he do? He walks away, grieved. Because of this, teachers within the Church have propped up a wrong idea. The idea that we are looking at a scale where we have to put the Kingdom of God (the pearl/the treasure) on one side and everything else (family/posessions/life) on the other before making our decision.
And that’s a really challenging decision. But, is it? Maybe it was for the rich young ruler but it wasn’t for Peter, or James, or John. They left everything, even down to the boats they were standing in or the family they were working with, to follow Jesus.
So, what was the difference? The difference is that Peter, James, and John saw the joy that was set before them. They saw the hope that we’ve been talking about. Was there a cost of discipleship in their lives? Absolutely. But they paid it readily, willingly.
If we really understand the hope set before us, we grasp the idea that the pearl we’ve found is greater than any other pearl and with joy we pay the cost. The cost is even cheap for us because of the treasure we’re receiving in return.
For the Joy
Look at Hebrews 12:2. “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We should have the same joy that led Jesus to the cross. How? By keeping our eyes on Jesus. He is the one who sanctifies us and trains us to look like himself. He’s the one who endured all for the joy set before him. But what about when he wept in Gethsemane, asking his Father to let the cup pass by if possible?
Let’s look back to what we learned from David in the last post. Psalm 119:161-162 says, “Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words. I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil.”
This is real hope. This hope that was set before Jesus and David said that even if the worst comes, I’m all in. Jesus was all in when he went to the cross for you and me. He did it for the joy set before him, for the treasure, for the pearl of great price. Restored communion between God and man. The people he redeemed.
The joy set before us is Jesus. Jesus was willing to die for his image bearers, to redeem them, and mold them into obedient image bearers. This is an amazing idea that we can’t lose sight of. God, for the joy set before him, hung on a cross and despised its shame. He didn’t care about the cost. He was ready and willing to pay it for us. Then, after he paid the cost and won the treasure, he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
What does this help us understand? It helps us understand the previous verse in Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
If we remember what Hebrews 12 and Hebrews 11 are talking about, it’s this “hall of fame” of faith. It’s the people who really believed in the hope of God. They meant something by their faith. They are the ones who sold everything for the pearl of great price. In light of this, what should we do? As the writer of Hebrews says, we should lay aside every encumbrance—along with the sin that is entangling us—and run with endurance.
This isn’t social media Christianity. This isn’t a rich young ruler moment. This is James and John and Peter Christianity. This is our James and John and Peter moment. This is what it means to follow Christ. This is what David meant when he sang, “Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words. I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil. I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Your law.”This isn’t social media Christianity. This isn’t a rich young ruler moment. This is James and John and Peter Christianity. Click To Tweet
In the next post within this series, we’ll look at what David meant when he said that he hated and despised falsehood. But today, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cost of discipleship. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.