JESUS: Count The Cost, by Mark G. Boyer

Reflections for Holy Week and Easter

Count The Cost Mark G. Boyer


Scripture: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.  Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  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?  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?  So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. (Luke 14:26-33)
Reflection:The author of Luke’s gospel portrays Jesus as stating that a follower must hate all family ties along with his or her own life.  These strong words are delivered to the crowd in order to emphasize the all-or-nothing position of the Lukan Jesus.  His emphasis on turning one’s back on family and life weeds out those who cannot make such an absolute commitment.  If one cannot abandon one’s family, then how can a person pick up his or her cross and walk in Jesus’s footsteps?

Unique to Luke’s gospel are two examples of counting the cost of discipleship.  The first example employs the building metaphor.  Before a person decides to turn his or her back on family and life, he or she should calculate the cost, like a builder, who goes to the hardware store and calculates the cost of materials, the cost of labor, and adds in a few more dollars for unforeseen expenses.  Then, once the builder has an estimated cost, he can decide if he has enough money to begin and finish the project.  The other metaphor is war.  One nation preparing to fight another must first consider the troops it has and the troops its enemy has.  If it has few troops, it may be best to negotiate peace.  In either case – building or war – the cost must be calculated; otherwise, people will see the failure and ridicule those who miscalculated.

To the hating family members and carrying the cross – carefully calculated – the author of Luke’s gospel added one of his favorite themes, namely, giving up possessions.  Throughout Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, volume two, the author emphasizes the importance of renouncing possessions in narratives, parables, and sayings.  Possessions must be renounced because contrary to popular understanding possessions are not possessed by people; possessions possess people.  And anyone who wants to follow Jesus must be free of them – and of family – in order to take up the cross – the cost of discipleship – and follow Jesus.  Before embarking upon such a mission, however, one must calculate the cost and be sure that he or she is able to pay the price.  If not, others may be scandalized by those who should be sincere disciples.

Journal/Meditation: What has discipleship cost you in terms of family, cross, and possessions?  Have you calculated the cost?

Prayer:I come to you, Father, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to calculate the cost of following in the footsteps of your Son, Jesus Christ, and give me the grace to give away whatever discipleship will ask of me.  I ask this in the name of the same Jesus Christ, who, hating his life, carried his cross to his death.  He is Lord forever and ever.  Amen.

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