“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?”
I’ve heard that verse used as a case for planning. Or strategic thinking. Yeah, right.
Sometimes Jesus said things that take my breath away. While Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris argue for the lack of evidence for God’s existence, Jesus lays his cards on the table and makes us gasp for truth. The demands that Jesus makes for followership seem so, well, demanding. They’re the kind of demands that only God or a crazy person would ask (think Waco…). And he said things that were so beautiful, comprehensive and irreligious that they don’t reflect the rants of the hardnosed “holiness separatist” preacher.
But this seems out of control. And by the way, don’t you think his disciples spent a lot of time doing damage control?—as in “Did Jesus really mean…?” Talk about thinning out the crowds. Jesus could say things that would make a church-growth consultant wet his pants.
Here’s that verse in context:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “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.
“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. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Luke 14:25-34 (New International Version)
Whoa. I think only God can say stuff like that. Does any man deserve that kind of allegiance…especially a man that says the Shema is the greatest commandment of all (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Deuteronomy 6:5)? He’s not that wacked out. It seems like a clear warning: if you start down this road and turn back, it’s pretty difficult to get authentically zealous again.
Fact is, there is always a cost to following Jesus. For several reasons. But a primary one is that expressing both the transformation of your own life and the Lordship of Jesus as savior and ruler of the New Kingdom that is “now and not yet”—which is really what the “e-word” is all about—will cost you dearly.
But the payoff is spectacular.
This weekend I mentioned a woman named Hazel Ryckman. She came to Zagun, Nigeria (where we drilled our first borehole) in the early 1920’s to bring the Good News of Jesus to the Rukuba tribe, both in word and deed, eventually starting a small clinic and school. But she would have been only about twenty-five years old. A twenty-five year old single girl. I can only imagine how remote that was. And it’s only a few years older than my daughter Rachel. No email. No cell phones. Practically incommunicado. What causes a young girl to risk that?
I was stunned when I tracked down two of her letters in a rare books store in Connecticut that happened to specialize in books from Sub-Saharan Africa. In her letter of February 2, 1925, she said: “…(May) God burden your hearts for the Rukubas, is my prayer. In every direction thousands are dying in their sins. Four Christians in a whole tribe of about thirty thousand…”. There is clearly discouragement if you read between the lines.
Maybe we’re one of the results of that prayer. Today there are over 200,000 in the tribe…and many have come to Christ. Many more as the water (and Water) of life comes to each village.
But it was extremely costly for Hazel. She ended up staying there for over forty years…and apparently never married.
Think about Mother Teresa’s recently revealed correspondence to her superior; there were many, many years of discouragement in sensing God’s presence. How could the overwhelming poverty of India not have a burdensome effect? Apparently it was a long dark night of the soul for her.
There is a cost to following Jesus…at every level. Paul writes depressingly at one point: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Corinthians 1:8 (New International Version). That sounds exceptionally disheartening.
There will always be a cost with the e-word.
But I wonder what Hazel’s reward is now? She died in 1985 in Florida. I would imagine that anyone who gives their whole life to the advancement of the Kingdom probably doesn’t really care that much what the reward is once they slip into the next “face-to-face-with God” dimension.
Maybe. But I don’t want to miss it.
Besides, I want to meet Hazel. She got this whole thing started…when she was just a sold-out twenty-something.
I’m sure the price is right.