The Parable Of Counting The Cost


“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27

Many people pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ but their actions don’t back up their allegiance. I don’t know about you but I believe the mark of a great leader is to state very clearly the conditions that must be met by those who follow him.

You can’t join the army and just expect to do your own thing, you have to do what the commanding officer asks of you. You wouldn’t accept a job until you’ve had a job interview to find out exactly what the terms and conditions of your contract are and if you didn’t agree with the contract then you wouldn’t take the job.

Jesus was that type of a leader, He very clearly laid out the conditions that must be met by anyone who wants to follow Him. Great multitudes of people had been following Jesus and many people were excited about Him.

Some of them thought that as a Messiah He would drive out the Roman mass. Others in the crowd were fascinated with His strange teaching and His mighty works and many others were just curious.

But to this motley crowd of people who were turning the whole thing into a playful extravaganza. Jesus tells the crowd that if you want to follow me, then here are some terms and conditions.

1. Hate your father, mother, wife and kids and even your own life.

Before we get into the parable of ‘Counting the cost’ we need to look at what Jesus means, when He tells the crowd to hate their families and their lives.

We need to understand just what kind of hate Jesus is looking for from His followers. Did Jesus literally mean that we should hate our families and our own lives?

If you believe that He meant these words to be taken literally, then you come into some problems with some of Jesus’ other teachings. And we know that Jesus doesn’t contradict Himself, the problem usually lies in our understanding of what we’re reading.

Jesus didn’t seek to crush the tender relationships of human friendships and love. He taught His followers in Matthew 5:43-48 to “Love even their enemies.”

In Mark 7:9-13 He taught His followers to “Honour their parents”.

On the cross, He committed the care of His mother to a trusted friend in John 19:26-27.

In Matthew 5:21-26 He spoke against anger and hatred of one’s brother and said that it was a kind of murder.

Little children, He gathered in His arms and blessed in Mark 10:13-16.

His whole life and His teachings made it quite clear that people were to be loved. Jesus isn’t contradicting Himself, No! The way to understand what He means is in the word ‘hate’.

For example, it doesn’t mean that we’re to love our relatives with a diminished love, because this would be opposed to the heart and soul of Christianity, Ephesians 5:25 / 1 Peter 1:22.

It’s true that we may love the Lord too little, but we cannot love any human being too much. And we will never love the Lord more by loving our human friends less.

And so, what does Jesus mean when He says that “We are to hate our own life?” In what sense are we to hate ourselves, like we’re to hate our relatives and friends?

It’s an awareness of sin in our own lives and in the lives of our friends and family. A Christian must hate whatever is in himself, which is low and biased, he must hate everything, which is greedy and selfish. Anything, which drags him away from Christ and robs him of his real self and true values.

A Christian ought to love his relatives and friends as they love themselves and hate them as he hates himself. In other words, whatever is in them, which is pure and right, he’s to love.

Whatever is in them, which is unclean and self-indulgent, he’s to hate. That’s why Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31.

Remember when Jesus was telling the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, and be killed and after three days He will be resurrected? The Bible says that Peter rebuked Jesus but then Jesus went on to rebuke him, Mark 8:32-33.

Now, what’s the point? Well, the point is that even if a person’s friend comes to stand between him and his Lord, then a choice needs to be made.

A choice between the natural affection of a friend or a devotion to their Saviour Jesus Christ. And sadly that’s where many a Christian fall, where friends and family give us a choice sometimes daily.

We’re faced with choices every day and the way to deal with those choices is to ask ourselves a simple question.

Which choice has in mind the things of God? And which choice has in mind the things of men?

Too many Christians choose wrongly, that’s why they have abandoned the faith and you never see them anymore. But the true followers of Christ will always be and must be ready to treat their dearest friends and family as enemies.

So that’s what Jesus means when He asks His followers to hate their families and friends. And it’s now that Jesus goes on to share some other conditions, which first must be met before you even think about becoming a follower of Christ.

Now, these parables should be very familiar to all of us because I know that most of us use these Scriptures a lot when we’re studying with people who are thinking about becoming Christians.

People need to be aware that there’s a cost involved in becoming a disciple of Christ. And Jesus is uncompromisingly honest, He’s going to spell it out, what’s required of everyone who wants to become a Christian.

And if you’re not a Christian today, then I beg of you to listen closely to Jesus’ words. And if you are a Christian this morning, then I suggest that you listen closely and reflect on the commitment that you made when you declared allegiance to Jesus Christ.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28-33

Most recruiting officers don’t tell you everything at first. They usually keep back the difficult and dangerous things in order to enlist men into their service.

But with Jesus, He wanted no one to come to Him under any false illusions. People are going to face up to the task or not follow Him at all.

The first illustration Jesus uses is that of a man who wanted to build a tower. Now this tower was most likely a vineyard tower and as we know the tower was the main guard against anyone who might come in and strip the vineyard during harvest time.

He says, ‘think about it!’ If he began work on it but couldn’t finish it, then he would be the laughing stock of the whole town. And remember Jesus was a carpenter and I’m sure He would have seen this type of thing many times over in Nazareth.

The other illustration, which Jesus gives, is that of a king who is contemplating going to war. He too before he engages in any form of warfare calculates the odds and the risks involved.

Is he able to stand against twenty thousand men with his ten thousand? Are his soldiers well trained and eager for battle? Can he advantage himself with the element of surprise?

And basically, if he’s unprepared for battle, then he will send out a delegation and ask for peace. Jesus says listen, “if you desire to be His follower you must see beforehand the hard and painful struggle that awaits you.” He says, “you need to be ready to make the sacrifices required of you no matter the cost.”

Before anyone becomes a Christian, they need to ask themselves several questions.

1. Am I willing to deny myself?

When a person becomes a Christian and starts to walk the Christian life, it’s the end of self. Self-denial is the first condition of discipleship, Matthew 16:24.

Let me make it clear, Jesus doesn’t mean a temporary denial of self. He’s not talking about a time where everyone gives up the things they don’t usually like anyway.

He’s not talking about a sacrifice of certain pleasures for a week or two in order that some good cause might be supported. He’s talking about a denial, which involves the rest of your Christian life, to deny oneself means to no longer live to please self, Galatians 2:20 / Colossians 3:5-10.

That’s what every person needs to do who sincerely seeks Him. And let me tell you, this isn’t easy, there are some bitter pills for us to swallow. Because as we know, when it comes to death, putting anything to death is never easy.

Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to put to death all the impurities, all the ungodliness, which lives in you to follow Christ?

C.S. Lewis once said, “The Christian way is different.”

Christ says, “Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work, I want you.” I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth or crown it, I want it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires, which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked, I want the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself, my own will, will become yours.”

That’s what Christ requires of us all. To deny self is in every moment and in every way to say, ‘No’ to self and ‘Yes’ to Jesus.

2. Am I willing to abide by His teachings?

You see, along with this question should come another question, do you believe in your mind that Jesus is who He claimed to be?

Matthew 2:2 tells us He was born to be a king and in John 18:36 He told Pilate that He is a king. He professed to be the Christ, the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament in Mark 14:61-62 and John 4:25-26.

He said He was the world’s light in John 8:25-26 and He said that He could supply living water in John 4:10. He also said that He is the bread of life in John 6:35, the way, the truth and the life in John 14:6.

In short Jesus, Christ claimed to be the Saviour of the world. And in a world, which is so full of doubt, let me tell you these claims are true.

But the commitment to His claims means living by His teachings, John 8:31. It means continuing in the words of Jesus because this is a vital part of the cost that needs to be counted.

Jesus asks you today, ‘You say you want to follow me, but are you willing to do what I say?’ Are you willing to be guided solely by my teachings? Instead of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, are you prepared to turn the other cheek or go the second mile?

Will you love those who hate you? And when men persecute you, will you pray for them? Are you ready to exchange earthly treasures for heavenly treasures? Without any reservations or any strings attached, are you really willing to put My kingdom first?

These are some of the awesome questions that separate the multitudes. These are the questions that try the souls of men and women.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 14:34-35

Jesus says salt is good and metaphorically referred to His followers as ‘the salt of the earth’ in Matthew 5:13. What exactly does this mean? In order to fully comprehend the Messiah’s statement, we must be aware of some qualities that salt possesses.

1. Salt is a flavouring agent.

This is perhaps the most commonly recognised use of salt. Who hasn’t used salt to improve the taste of food that is otherwise bland?

2. Salt is a preserving agent.

Salt that is added to fresh meat will act as a preservative, it will help delay the decay process. The practice of salting meats has been used for years.

3. Salt increases thirst.

Many people like Chinese food, however, after consuming a lot of Chinese food, our bodies will crave fluids for the rest of the evening! The salt contained in Chinese food cheese noticeably increases our thirst.

4. Salt melts ice.

During the winter months, many people use various mixtures of salt to melt ice on roads, driveways, and sidewalks.

5. Salt irritates.

Have you ever been working outside under the hot sun and had sweat running into your eyes? It stings, doesn’t it? The salt contained in sweat is an irritant.

6. Salt has destructive power.

We know that certain portions of our roads, due to concrete damage, have been severely damaged by heavy salting over many winters. Salt is certainly powerful stuff.

Using a little bit will melt the ice, but using a lot can ruin an entire road! Too much salt will also harm or kill living things, such as grass, slugs, etc.

Admittedly, although we understand these attributes and usages of salt today, it is likely that the major thrust of Jesus’ point pertained to salt as a flavouring agent, note His use of the word ‘seasoned’ in the verse.

Anyone who is striving to follow Jesus will make the world a better place in much the same way that salt helps certain foods taste better.

For instance, in Acts 2:47 the disciples were described as ‘praising God and having favour with all the people.’ Without a doubt, they added something good to society.

It is possible for salt to lose its flavour. Normally this should not happen, but it will if the salt becomes contaminated with impurities, e.g., dirt. Jesus is issuing a warning here.

A disciple can lose the qualities that make them valuable before God as ‘salt’ if they aren’t careful to remain separate from harmful impurities like sin, 2 Corinthians 6:17.

If a Christian becomes contaminated with impurity, then they are ‘good for nothing’ in service to the Lord, at least not until they come back to Him and seek forgiveness on God’s terms. A Christian ought to be pure and kind in thoughts, deeds, and speech, Colossians 4:6.

Such a person will have a preserving effect on righteousness and godliness, as salt preserves food and helps prevent spoiling. They will endeavour, like salt, to remove, or melt, any hindrances that could cause others who are searching for Christ to stumble.

However, in the process, they, like salt, may irritate some people. Though this isn’t their purpose, when we live for God and stand up for His cause, some will undoubtedly be rubbed up the wrong way.

It is also true that followers of the Lord, like salt, have the potential to cause destruction if they come in contact with the wrong things, namely, sin. Christians should endeavour to destroy sin from their lives. They should be a force against evil.

Finally, a faithful disciple should also cause others to thirst for righteousness, Matthew 5:6, as salt itself causes physical thirst.

3. Am I willing to follow Him to the end?

There are many people who want to follow Jesus provided the way is easy and pleasant, but when the going gets hard and the road stretches long, they give it all up. The first parable we read presents this as a distinct possibility for every Christian.

Many a Christian starts with a spurt but never finishes the race, but Jesus knew that was going to happen anyway, didn’t He? Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus never said that the Christian race was going to be a sprint, He said it’s going to be a marathon.

The Christian journey lasts until the journey ends. You don’t become a Christian and then a couple of months or years later decide to count the cost again and give up. Why? Why would that be a bad choice?

It would be a bad choice the end will be worse, 2 Peter 2:21. Peter is talking about people who were Christians but after a few miles down the road gave it up. But they didn’t just give up Christ, they turned their backs on Christ.

That’s why you need to understand these words of Jesus before you become a Christian. And if you ever wondered why Jesus’ words seem so serious, it’s because following Him is a serious business.

In every department of life, it’s always better, to be honest with yourself and face the facts. Everyone who wants to achieve anything in life must be aware of the sacrifices that need to be made. God wants us to be aware of those sacrifices, even before we commit our lives to Him.

Please don’t get Jesus wrong here, He’s not trying to dampen people’s enthusiasm. He’s saying that the hard facts of the Christian life must be faced.

In John 16:33 He told His disciples that “In this world, you will have trouble.” But Jesus goes on to say in that verse, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And Jesus isn’t saying that it’s better not to begin than to begin and fail with a flourish of trumpets, He’s not saying that. But what He’s saying is that it’s better not to begin, than to begin with a flourish of trumpets.

There’s no greater challenge for any of mankind that compares to the challenge of living the life of a Christian. There’s no challenge that exceeds the thrill of the Christian way of living.