When Jesus says we have to hate our family, carry a cross, and give up all our possessions, he didn’t mean it literally…right?
Look, prepare yourself.
This passage from Luke 14:25-32 is pretty full on. Jesus had been teaching and even healing people on the Sabbath in front of the Pharisees, and immediately prior to this passage has delivered some teaching about who is invited to the great banquet (spoilers: everyone, though not everyone will turn up and they will miss out).
So, when Jesus talks about being a disciple has a cost…what does he mean?
- The cost of discipleship is everything.
Psalm 139 tells us that God knows us, and loves. Knew us before where born. Knows everything about us. God knows the things we like and the things we don’t like. Being a disciple of Jesus is submitting our will to that of our Creator and prioritising the Kingdom of God over our own wants and desires. It means being willing to give up everything we have in service for God.
Some people take it literally and give up their lives and engage in mission work. Some people are very, very generous with their money, their time, and their resources/things. As the one who knows us calls us to be faithful and take up our cross, it will mean will sacrifice what we want for what God wants.
It might even mean that high profile career or big money job we are lined up to have…we might need to give that up and serve God in a different way.
2. The cost of discipleship is EVERYTHING.
While in prison in Rome, Paul wrote to Philemon and he sent the letter with Onesimus – a guy who had been a slave to Philemon and had escaped. Onesimus had found himself in Rome and able to support and care for Paul, and so having Onesimus deliver the letter back to Philemon was super risky.
By rights, Philemon could have had Onesimus killed. He was, after all, his slave who had escaped him. He was well within his rights to be very upset with him and not offer him any hospitality or comfort, or even on-sell him to someone else now that he had returned.
Paul challenges Philemon to treat Onesimus no longer as a slave, but rather as a ‘beloved brother’ now that they are both people who follow Jesus. In this, not only was there a significant financial cost to Philemon but Paul was also challenging him to live the faith Philemon had found under Paul’s care and welcome Onesimus. Paul offers to pay for anything that Onesimus owed Philemon, and at the same time reminds Philemon that his entire life is owed to Paul because of his leading him to Christ.
At a time when Philemon could have maintain the power and class structures of the time, Paul was challenging him to live out his faith in the upside down way Christ calls us all to live.
3. The cost of discipleship is everything.
Relationships are challenging at the best of times; especially familial ones. Our family knows us very well and can be the ones who push our buttons easiest. In the midst of a fight with a parent or sibling you might reflect on this passage from Luke and think it’s pretty easy to hate someone you love for the sake of the gospel. That’s not what Jesus is talking about in this passage in Luke 14.
When we reflect the pretty direct things Jesus says to the crowd following him, to read it at face value means we’re in for a messy time.
Jesus is challenging the crowd, and even us, to know that giving up our life to follow him as a disciple will mean we will need to prioritise God’s way over our own ways – even sometimes over family ways.
In challenging us to give up all our possessions again Jesus is challenging us to step into the upside down Kingdom of God that sees all people as valuable and puts those in high status or high power positions last.
For those of lower status, being welcomed into a the new family of God was a good thing indeed – but for those of higher status it could mean cutting themselves off from their (earthly) future. Losing inheritances and even titles that would make their lives very easy. The decision to follow Christ must be measured (like a builder) and considered (like the king going to war).
Most importantly, what Jesus was and is saying to all of us is that this is not a call for destitution but a means of radical redistribution with a double aim: letting go of our possessions both frees the heart from all-consuming concern for them, and ensures that no one in the family of disciples is in need.
Being a disciple costs everything, because If it costs nothing then it isn’t worth anything.
Molk is the Young Adult Ministry Lead and Senior Field Officer (North) within the PULSE team.