Daily Reading & Meditation

Wednesday (November 5): The cost of discipleship

Scripture: Luke 14:25-33

25 Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, 26 "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, 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 begin to mock him, saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Meditation: Why does Jesus say we must 'hate' our families and even ourselves? The expression 'to hate' often meant to 'prefer less'. Jesus used strong language to make clear that nothing should take precedence or first place over God. God our heavenly Father created us in his image and likeness to be his sons and daughters. He has put us first in his love and concern for our welfare. Our love for him is a response to his exceeding love for us. True love is costly because it is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the beloved. God sacrificed his Son for our sake and for our salvation. God proved his love for us by sending his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered up his life for us as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The cost of discipleship
Jesus willingly embraced the cross, not only out of obedience to his Father's will, but out of a merciful love for each one of us in order to set us free from sin, Satan, and death. Jesus knew that the cross was the Father's way for him to achieve victory and glory for our sake. He counted the cost and said 'yes' to his Father's will. We, too, must 'count the cost' and be ready to follow the Lord Jesus in the way of the cross if we want to share in his glory and victory.

What is the 'way of the cross' for you and me? It means that when my will crosses with God's will, then his will must be done. The way of the cross involves sacrifice, the sacrifice of laying down my life each and every day for Jesus' sake. What makes such sacrifice possible and "sweet" for us is the love of God poured out for us in the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul the Apostle reminds us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). We can never give more than God. He always gives us more than we can expect or imagine. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the love of God?

The wise plan ahead to avert failure and shame
What do the twin parables of the tower builder and a ruler on a war campaign have in common? Both men risk serious loss if they don't carefully plan ahead. In a shame and honor culture people want at all costs to avoid being mocked by their community for failing to complete a task which they have begun in earnest. This double parable echoes the instruction of Proverbs: "By wisdom a house is built" and "by wise guidance you can wage a war" to ensure victory (Proverbs 24:3-6).

In Jesus' time every landowner who could afford it walled in his orchard as a protection from intruders who might steal or destroy his produce. A tower was usually built in a corner of the wall and a guard posted especially during harvest time when thieves would likely try to make off with the goods. Starting a building-project, like a watchtower, and leaving it unfinished because of poor planning would invite the scorn of the whole village. Likewise a king who decided to wage a war against an opponent who was much stronger, would be considered foolish if he did not come up with a plan that had a decent chance of success. Counting the cost and investing wisely are necessary conditions for making a good return.

We must count the cost if we want to invest in God's kingdom
Jesus tells his would-be disciples that they, too, must count the cost if they want to succeed as his disciples. Jesus assures success for those willing to pay the price. All it cost is everything we have - the entirety of our lives and all we possess! What does Jesus have to offer that's worth giving up everything else? More than we can imagine! Jesus offers the gift of an abundant joy-filled life and the promise of everlasting peace and happiness with God for ever. (See the parable of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price in Matthew 13:44-45). 

It's natural to ask what will it require or cost before a commitment to invest in something of great value. Jesus was utterly honest and spared no words to tell his disciples that it would cost them dearly to follow after him and to invest in his heavenly kingdom. There can be no room for compromise or concession with God and his kingdom. We either give our lives over to him entirely or we keep them for ourselves. Paul the Apostle says, "We are not our own. We were bought with a price" ( 1 Corinthians 6:19b,20). That price is the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed for us upon the cross to redeem us from slavery to sin and death.

Who do you love first - above all else?
The love of God compels us to choose who or what will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or any possession above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine what they love first and foremost. Jesus' way to glory and power is opposite the world's way of glory, power, and success. The choice is ours, but the Lord does not leave us alone if we choose to follow him. Does the love of Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (see 2 Corinthians 5)?

"Lord Jesus, may your love transform me that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. May you always be first in my thoughts and intentions, and in my words and actions."

Psalm 112:1-2,4-5,9

1 Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!
2 His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
4 Light rises in the darkness for the upright; the LORD is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.
9 He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever;  his horn is exalted in honor.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The paradox of the cross and discipleship, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"On another occasion, the Lord says, 'Whoever comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own soul, cannot be my disciple' (Luke 14:25). As a rule, this is more upsetting to the mind of new Christians who are eager to begin at once to live in accordance with the precepts of Christ. To those who do not fully grasp its meaning, it would seem contradictory... He has condescended to call his disciples to the eternal kingdom. He also called them brothers. In the kingdom these relationships are transcended, because 'there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor freeman, but Christ is all things and in all' (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). The Lord says, 'For in the resurrection they will neither be married nor marry, but will be as the angels of God in heaven' (Matthew 22:30). Whoever wishes to prepare himself now for the life of that kingdom must not hate people but those earthly relationships through which the present life is sustained, the temporary life that begins at birth and ends with death. Whoever does not hate this necessity does not yet love that other life in which there will be no condition of birth and death, the condition that makes marriages natural on earth. (excerpt from SERMON ON THE MOUNT 15.3)


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author Don Schwager 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.  

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