Luke 14:28-33 – 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’
Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
It seems like a common sense teaching – plan before you act – but how many people don’t do that? Better than a decade ago a young couple started to build a new house in my neighborhood, full, I’m sure, with joy and expectation on building not just a house but a family. But, they failed to take into account all of the costs beyond the house itself. The land was next to a creek and needed EPA approvals, this delayed construction and increased costs. By the time approvals had been received the cost of materials and labor had risen, and the bank would not extend further credit. In no time the house was abandoned, partially built, and dreams were shattered.
But these parables are not really about building or war, they are about planning for the future. Your future in following Jesus’ teachings. Let’s look at why Jesus gave this parable, backing up just a few verses:
Luke 14:25-27 Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, “If any one 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 bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
Before you say, “Lord, count me as one of your disciples”, think and consider just what this is going to entail. I had an uncle, the one who I list as one of my Staretz (mentor, adviser, guide) who was considered “odd” (to put it lightly) by his family. He had left the church and spent many hours during the day not just reading Sacred Scripture, but studying it in great depth. He rejected the teachings of the church at the time (rightly so) and stuck to the Scriptural teachings. Over time he was proven right and many of his problems with the church have been corrected, but at the time he was considered an outcast. He was willing to give up everything – family, friends, even the church – to hold fast to the teachings of Christ.
This is what Jesus is talking about. Before you commit to a life of following Jesus, think about what it will mean, and what you are willing to give up.
- Are you willing to leave your place of employ if they do not hold strict to the way of Jesus? Do you work for an abortion provider? Do they pay for abortions? Are they shady in their dealings with other people or companies?
- How do you deal with discriminatory talk, even if it comes from family or friends? I’m not talking here about political correctness, but true discrimination. Do you sit quietly, or do you speak up and defend others in Jesus’ name?
- Are you willing to say to people, “I can’t go along with that, it’s not what Jesus taught”?
I have a friend who had a good job driving trucks for a local, but major, company. One day he went into work to find out that his union was on strike (his first since getting the job), a financial difficulty, but something you put up with in some industries. On the third day of the strike a non-union trucker had a delivery to make to the plant. His union boss handed him a bat and told him to break out the trucks windows then, if the guy refused to leave, to use it on the trucker, if he refused then his union “buddies” would use it on him. What would you do in this situation?
I’ve heard many pastors speak to people of how everything will be great if they would just commit to a life of following Christ. How everything would be better. If they commit to tithing that all of their financial worries would be over. Christ never promised us an easy life, in fact just the opposite. He warns us that if we pick up our cross and follow him that it will be a long, hard, road. Think about it, which path is easier the one where you carry a cross on your shoulders, or the path that you walk cross-free? Why use the cross metaphor if he didn’t know that it implies a harder path?
This is what Jesus is saying here: before you make the decision to follow him, sit down and look at what it will mean, plan long and hard. And only when you are sure you can handle it should you grab hold of your cross and follow him.