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  • Rev. Diane Curtis

Count the Cost

Luke 14:25-33

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

25 Now large crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see 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 will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

I want to begin with a disclaimer. The following example is not meant as either a criticism or endorsement of any particular individual.

Imagine a politician whose campaign promise is this:

“If you vote for me, you’re voting to lose your homes and families. You’re asking for higher taxes and lower wages. You’re deciding in favor of losing all you love best. So, vote for me!”

Upon hearing this speech, the people in the crowd don’t respond with heckling or throwing things. Instead, they react with puzzlement. Why on earth would anyone want to advertise themselves in this way?

Jesus is doing this very thing! Do you want to follow me? Learn to hate your family. Give up all your possessions. Get ready for a nasty death. Appealing, right? He asks you to take a risk and do what you wouldn’t think of doing under any circumstances.

Suppose instead of a politician we think of the leader of a great expedition. He leads the group through a high and dangerous mountain pass to bring urgent medical supplies to villagers who are cut off from the rest of the world. At a point in the journey, he stops and says to the group:

“If you want to go any farther, you’ll have to leave your packs with all your personal belongings behind. The path is too steep to carry more than the medical supplies, and it will take all of us to even do that. You probably won’t find your pack again. Oh, and you might want to send your last postcards home. The route is dangerous, and it is highly likely that several of us won’t make it back.”

We can understand the group leader’s message. Even if we don’t like it, or are shocked by it, it makes sense for the situation. After all, the members of the group chose to join the expedition.

Jesus’ call to follow him, to discipleship, is more like the second scenario rather than the first. He has no interest in winning a popularity contest. Jesus is simply laying out the requirements of the journey.

The call to follow Jesus is costly. Discipleship is not an easy path. The journey is not for the faint-hearted or those who want to do everything they want and have everything they want. Only a select few will choose to embark on this expedition with Jesus.

Consider who and/or what competes for your attention? Your list could be long or short depending on your situation. Items on your list may include:

· Family

· Friends

· Job or career

· Activities you are involved in

· Vacations

· House

· Your possessions – necessary, luxury, keepsakes, pictures, memorabilia

· Religion/faith

· Other things of importance

We know we can’t give equal attention to everything on our list. There is always some give and take. Something or someone will get less than our best. Certain things will need to be shoe-horned into the schedule.

Jesus’s message to us is that how we are living isn’t working. Something’s got to give.

Inherently, we know this. When one thing demands more of our attention, others will get less. An aging parent or special needs child requires more time. A demanding boss expects you to work overtime. Too many commitments are on our calendar because we find it difficult to say “No,” so not one of them receives our focused attention. Continual house repairs and maintenance use up our limited resources and time in addition to adding stress to our lives. The list goes on. Eventually, we throw in the towel, choosing to do less or nothing at all. Then everyone and everything gets shortchanged even more.

Jesus tells us to consider the cost. What is your life doing to you the way that it is? How does this overload affect your health and well-being, your relationships, and even your faith? You must make a choice. You can’t manage it all.

The choice Jesus puts before us is this: me or everything else. You can’t have both. You can either get those needed medical supplies to the villagers or stay to take care of the stuff in your backpack. Which will it be?

Do you want to follow Jesus, to be the disciple he is calling you to be or try to ignore the persistent voice in your head and the tug on your heart. Your life, as you are currently living it, is not the life to which you are called. The new life Jesus offers is much more. More satisfying. More energizing. Filled with hope and promise. This new life will make you truly alive, help you to fulfill your purpose, and give you the internal peace you are craving. This is the life of a disciple, a life spent following Jesus.

However, you need to know up front that this new life, the life of a disciple, is costly. It requires total dedication. It requires putting everything else aside or on the back burner. The commitment required is not only to a new way of life but to a person. The person who changed the world and who expects us to help change the world as well. Jesus.

Before making the choice to go all in with Jesus, you must count the cost. You don’t want to lay a foundation of commitment and not be able to finish building – to stop part way through and be OK with walking away. This cheapens faith and turns others off to Jesus rather than be changed by Jesus.

You don’t want to head out to battle the world – the injustices, the pain, the self-centeredness – without ensuring you have the resources to fully engage. This is simply a half-hearted attempt to follow Jesus that others will see right through.

You may remember the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The version staring Gene Wilder. In the movie, it is announced that there were five golden tickets hidden in Wonka chocolate bars that entitled the holder to tour the factory and receive a life-time supply of chocolate. No one had been in or out for as long as anyone could remember, so this was a really big deal. Chocolate bars were flying off the shelves around the world until all the tickets were found. The five children, along with their chaperones and a large crowd of onlookers, met at the front gate of the factory at the appointed day and time, eagerly waiting for the infamous Willy Wonka to appear.

After his arrival, the small group was ushered into the factory. Their first stop was a wall with a contract full of disclaimers and conditions regarding the tour that each child had to sign in order to continue. Of course, no one read the fine print.

Along the way, four of the children violated the rules specified in the fine print and were ushered out of the factory by the Oompa Loompas. Only Charlie Bucket remained. At the end of the tour, Willy Wonka showed him the door and went to his office. Charlie walked in to ask about the life-time supply of chocolate and was summarily dismissed for breaking a rule. As you would expect, Charlie redeemed himself and was given the entire factory.

It was the fine print, the rules that no one in the group had read that got each of the children into trouble.

Rarely do we read the fine print in the terms and conditions we agree to. We assume these terms include the usual restrictions against using a product or taking an action in an unacceptable way that violates the warranty or entitles a company to take an action against us or removes any redress we could take if something goes amiss. It is the fine print that can slip us up.

The fine print of faith can also slip us up. We assume that following Jesus is under our own terms and conditions. Priorities set, actions taken, and commitments met are under our own control. Following Jesus fits into our life as we choose, usually after our commitments to family, civic organizations, work, sports, and finances are fulfilled.

In giving instructions and telling the parable, Jesus is increasing the size of the fine print of faith. The terms and conditions are now clear and readable. There is no longer a question of what his expectations are. Jesus says that the claim of being a Christian, the commitment to following Jesus and becoming a disciple, requires all that you are and all that you have. Anything less is a slap in the face to the faith we proclaim.

Discipleship, following Jesus, is not a part-time job. When there is little or no tension between living the Christian faith and the aspirations of our own life, it is a result of attempting to live a part-time faith or faith that is subservient to the other demands of life. It is too hard to put Jesus first in everything and all the time.

It is extremely hard! That’s why Jesus uses such strong language. He makes it very clear what is expected. Everyone and everything must take second place to him. He never says it will be easy. Yet Jesus expects every person who claims to be a Christian to meet and embrace his expectations.

The fine print of Jesus’ terms and conditions requires a redirection of time and energy. These terms may require a change in personal relationships or in vocation or in how we use our financial resources. These are hard choices.

A story is told that is set in the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less. A 10-year-old boy entered a diner and sat at a table. The server put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the server. The boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he asked. By now a line of people were waiting for a table and the server was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents” she replied brusquely. The boy counted his coins again. “I’ll have the plain ice cream” he said. The server brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and quickly walked away. The boy finished his ice cream, paid the cashier, and left. When the server came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. The boy couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough to leave her a tip.

We must turn our thinking upside down. We are to consider the cost and make the commitment to follow Jesus.

For we, through Jesus, have become new creations. Not just nice people or people who live life in a good way. We are called to be followers of Jesus.

To be committed to Jesus requires a willingness to leave everything behind if that is what it takes to forge ahead.


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