The cost of being a disciple is no easy bargain, as revealed in Luke 14:25-33. “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother... even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (v.26). Two parables teach the importance of counting the cost. In the text, “many multitudes” went with Jesus. The went means “to go along with.” There were great numbers of people who were going along with him. They were following on the basis of a mixed bag of motives. Some were sincere. Some were curious. Some were willing to enlist in anyone’s army who was willing to “restore the kingdom to Israel.” The multitude knew no requirements and no demands in following the Messiah. In an instant, Jesus burst their bubble of ease. He was on the way to Jerusalem. The worldly groupies had to make a decision: would they be camp followers or devoted disciples?

Jesus says that those who would follow him must have a love for him that causes other loves to shrink in comparison. The strong word hate grates on our sensitivity. There were several meanings of this word in that compared to one’s devotion to Jesus Christ, all other devotions on any human level become secondary. Devotion to Jesus as one of his disciples means that there is absolutely nothing that comes between the follower and Jesus. Jesus pointed out the demands as revealed in verse 25. Jesus says that those who would follow him must have a love for him that causes other loves to shrink in comparison as indicated in verse 26.

Taking up one’s cross means death to self rather than denial of self. The cross is an instrument of execution ending in death. Today, in our modern Christianity, we have equated the cross more with service that with sacrifice. Those who heard these startling words of Jesus knew unmistakably that he was speaking of death. With no uncertain sound, Jesus is calling the people to follow him even unto their deaths (v. 27).

In defining further what the cost of discipleship is, Jesus uses two parables as illustrations. The first is a builder who prepares to to build a tower. The second is a warrior who prepares to go to battle. In each, the emphasis is on counting the cost. The tower was probably to be constructed on the man’s farm to protect his crops and his vineyards from animals that would destroy and from people who steal. The intent was a positive one. What would be detrimental was to begin the building and not be able to finish it. Beginning without adequate finances would cause derision and shame from his neighbors. Such a monument to bad planning would stand as a poor witness to the builder’s ability to finish what he had begun. Jesus is focusing on the end of one’s journey with him as well as the beginning. The warrior king wisely counted how many troops he had before going into battle with his enemy. With ten thousand men, how victorious could he be against an army of twenty thousand? Having counted the cost, he came to the conclusion that the better part of wisdom was not to go to war.

Verse 33 sums up this section with a call to “forsake all.” Are we willing to give up all that we are and all that we have to serve Christ? Are we willing to surrender everything to follow Jesus Christ?

J.B. Morris leads the Rock Hill United Methodist Church.