Parables of Counting the Cost

painting depicting an incomplete tower under construction

Luke 14: 25 – 35:

Now great multitudes went with him. He turned and said to them, “If any man comes to me, and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple.

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or what king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an envoy, and asks for conditions of peace.

“So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple. Salt is good, but if the salt becomes flat and tasteless, with what do you season it? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Cost of Discipleship

Jesus opens this section of His teaching by talking about cost, and he starts by telling His audience that they must be willing to sacrifice all familial ties to follow Him. Obviously, we are supposed to love our families based on numerous other verses, but Jesus is making a point on priorities here. Anything that stands between us and faithfulness — even our worldly families — needs to be set aside. This is the basis of the cost of discipleship. Nothing else can be more important than Christ in our lives.

We see our families, but we cannot see God. Families are of this world while God is of the next. That can make such a cost difficult to accept. Jesus illustrates this challenge by describing discipleship as picking up a cross and bearing it for His sake. In this culture, picking up a cross was a death sentence. Jesus is telling us to put self to death so that we can be ready to accept the cost of discipleship. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified in Christ.” I no longer live for myself, but rather I live for Him, whatever challenges that brings.

Preparing for the Cost

Jesus then gives two illustrations. The first is a person wishing to build a tower. If they don’t budget properly ahead of time, then they may find themselves running out of resources while half-completes. Then Jesus talks about a king preparing for battle. A failure to account for the resources and forces needed ahead of time results in surrender. In both of these cases, the failure is visible and obvious — a surrendering kingdom or a half-finished tower.

Jesus says we are like these unprepared individuals if we are not willing to give up all in our discipleship. This willingness to last in the face of any sacrifice keeps us useful to God, as salt is useful in preservation and flavoring. We make a commitment when we come to Jesus. We gain a freedom above all others. Nothing we can do can repay that grace, but there is still a cost of servanthood. And that commitment becomes first in our lives regardless of what we may lose in the process.

Jesus has already paid the greatest price when He gave Himself up to be crucified. He paid the debt for our sins and made salvation free to all. Any cost of discipleship we face in this life follows the example He set for us. We should always be willing to sacrifice self because we are grateful for the sacrifice He has already made. We surrender all to our Savior who gave all for us.

lesson by Cole Huddleston