Reading: Luke 14: 1, 25-33
Now large crowds were travelling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, ‘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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.”
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? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.
So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
No one should ever say Jesus’ teaching is easy. It is not. There are three deep and fundamental challenges Jesus puts before those who hear his invitation. Do we put God before family? Do we put God before our possessions? [Both of these are in view in this short passage.] And the third is almost a combination of the two earlier – Do we put God before our desire in life, our plans for our life, our own choices? Put even more simply – Do we put God first?
Jesus attracted large crowds but only a few close disciples. The crowds were intrigued, amazed, hopeful, they saw healings and they heard someone who spoke their sort of justice. I suspect they also saw someone who was an attractive person with an obvious integrity.
Our religious faith is not or should not be a hobby – something we enjoy or even give some time to because it feels worth it. But nor is it like joining the Foreign Legion where we sign away our life and lose our identity. This is the tension and paradox of the Christian Faith, of the call of Jesus – a more whole-hearted commitment to God brings a freedom, though it can be costly, and more so for some than for others. God calls us to live in a freedom that is rooted in the knowledge that we are loved by our Creator, we are God’s children; however, human nature is such that we so often act in ways that are more selfish, self-concerned, self-important; our confession, one version, acknowledges that we do so from negligence (either not knowing or not realising), from weakness (feeling unable to do different) and from our own deliberate fault. And so we need to work at living generously and caringly, be alert to the “sin that clings so closely” (Heb 12). And in a world where many put self first, the way of God is not easy or even acceptable. There is opposition and there may not be easy answers.
So Jesus asks us to consider the real long-term cost of following him and he gives two examples – a builder who has not got the money to complete, or possibly who has gone for too extravagant a building to start with! People laugh at the half-built folly.
His second example is more dangerous; the king is under attack from an enemy; his army is only of a certain size and the enemy force is twice the size. Even if it is not ideal, should he not try and make peace? This time the potential damage is much greater.
Seek first his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
(Sermon on the Mount). It is a life-time’s journey and learning.
Revd Peter Reiss