Luke 14: 25-33
Figure the Cost
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?
"If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’
“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?
“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.
‘If you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you … and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple’
Well, that’s harsh!
Is Jesus really telling us that we can’t truly follow him unless we abandon the people we’re naturally closest to? What happened to ‘love your neighbour’; ‘honour your father and mother’? What about the Catholic family values we have been brought up with?
Jesus isn’t exactly playing up the selling points here; he is not making it easy for us to choose to join him. He’s telling us it’s an all-or-nothing decision if we want to become his disciples. It sounds like a ‘Do you think you’re hard enough?’ challenge. This is confusing. How does this fit with the Jesus of peace and love and turning the other cheek?
The examples Jesus gives provide clues to how we need to respond to this passage. The house-builder and the king have to sit down and think very hard about what they are taking on, understand what they are getting into, and be prepared to change their plans if they don’t have what it takes. When we are faced with a complex and difficult teaching, we have to do the same. We can’t just listen to the Gospel this Sunday, frown, shrug and forget it.
Jesus is telling us that being his disciple is not an easy way of life. That it will only work if he is at the centre of our lives and all of our decisions.
The world today is full of disagreement and conflict – it always was. If we want to live as disciples of Jesus carrying his word through our world, we will have to challenge people who are opposed his message, and that can include the ones we are closest to. We also have to challenge our own thinking to ensure we truly live by his word. That can come at a cost.
Suppose a parent we love says homeless people have made a mess of their own lives and aren’t worth helping; perhaps a sibling says asylum seekers could be terrorists and we need to keep them out; or our best friend tells a racist joke, and everyone else laughs. Shouldn’t we put Jesus first in those situations and take the risk of upsetting them by explaining they’re not behaving in a very Christian way? Shouldn’t we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus and say out loud that we believe by loving the least of our neighbours?
If we choose to be disciples of Jesus, we need to realise that standing up like this – and in worse situations – is part of the deal. We can’t just sit silently, and register our disagreement internally.
I think Jesus is telling us that, if we think of him first, it will guide us in our loving relationships with our family and friends. We can’t be Christians in name only; we are called to live the Gospel; to stand up and speak out, from a position of love for our fellow human beings, which is rooted first in our love of Jesus.
Salesian Communications Worker
You wanted us to know that following you
isn’t always an easy path.
Help us to put you at the centre of our lives.
Give us the charity to see injustice.
Give us the courage to challenge it.
Give us the wisdom to speak out of love for you.