Three Costs of Discipleship

“If anyone 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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  (Luke 14:26-27 NASB)

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33 NASB)

I may have bitten off more than I can chew here taking all three, but I’m going to give it a shot.  The thing is, “classic” evangelism, the kind practiced in the last 40 years or so has been unbelievably “flies with honey” in its approach.  Jesus really wasn’t that way.  He was unbelievably honest.  He did things like heal or just talk to someone, but also acknowledge the sin.  He didn’t let the sin get in the way of talking to them, or even using them to reach an entire village (Samaritan woman for instance).

Jesus came to begin a process of making disciples, and we have somehow forgotten that.  Some now content themselves with butts in seats and baptisms.  Others with “participation” or acceptance.  We figure if we can get them in the door then the teaching can begin and at some point these lost people will become more like Jesus just by simple association with us, who are so much like Him…oh please.

The problem with this concept is the missing life change, the intentional transformation that leaves so many much like they were before hearing of Jesus.  If I’m no different a year after passing through the water than I was before, what has the “church” accomplished?  It certainly isn’t “making disciples” of Matthew 28.  But it’s uncomfortable to discuss the hyperbole of Jesus’ statements which call us to pay a much higher cost for following Him than we thought.  No one told us it would be so expensive.  Had we known before hand, we probably wouldn’t have signed up.

Jesus lists three costs here.  Jut three, but seriously, they are as if He addressed them to Americans.  Hate your family (and yourself)?  Not very popular today.  In fact it argues against the upsurge of “redefining” marriage and family by minimizing their place in the life of a disciple.  It becomes less about family and more about Jesus.  Anyone a little uncomfortable yet?  Easier to talk about family and make that the issue isn’t it?

And what about hating your own soul?  Just in case the people were a bit unsure what He meant, Jesus goes on to say that we must take up our personal method of execution and follow Him.  Yes, we are to die to ourselves.  I’m supposed to give up my goals, my plans, my ideas of right, wrong, what is important, and so on.  Those are supposed to die, and in their place, I am to allow Jesus to fill me with His goals, plans, ideas of right and wrong, what is important, and so on.  Oops.  He was serious about that?

But again, just in case we get to a point of asking, “everything?”, Jesus goes on to explain that we are to figure this out up front.  Figure it out before hand, because unless we give up all our possessions we’re not going to be able to “afford” to be a disciple.  So possessions are another thing that are supposed to go, they are to to be left behind in our pursuit of following Jesus.  Not very American or even Western of us is it?  Who’s ready?  Let’s get on this bandwagon!  Burn it all!  Well actually no, sell it all, give the proceeds to the poor, and be content following Jesus.

Here’s the point:  To be a disciple of Jesus is expensive.  In fact, it’s so expensive, most people working so diligently to get more people into the program haven’t paid the cost of the program themselves.  No one sees how expensive it is as they are being coaxed to “join up”!  They see people much like themselves doing the coaxing, so it never occurs to them that there’s this cost involved.  Ironically, it rarely occurs to the ones doing the coaxing either.

Let’s make a change.  In Luke 14:16-24, Jesus made a very clear and insulting point about the relative danger Jews were in with God.  And then in verse 25, we have many throngs following Him around.  So, He insults them in a sense, and they flock to Him.  Not a typical approach to “evangelism”, insulting the people you’re trying to reach. It worked for Him though.  So then He sort of “thins the herd” with His explanation of the cost of being a disciple.

I’m sure the disciples were hearing and going, “Yeah, no lie.”  They had given up careers, family, status of one sort or another, all sorts of things.  We sometimes forget that.  They paid a literal cost.  Jesus describes this here, and we think, “He’s exaggerating”.  And then come away from the passage content we don’t actually have to hate our families and give up all our stuff and carry around some heavy thing that we later die on.  I believe if we’re comfortable, we’re missing the point, and do not have ears to hear.

What do you learn from Jesus’ declared cost of discipleship?



  1. Joel says:

    I like the takeaway you pulled when you mashed it together as, it’s expensive to follow Jesus. Also, I completely agree on the family aspect. It’s not one typically embraced by the American church, which in middle class suburbia has become a loose confederation of families that meet once a week at the church and once every other week in a small group to touch base, hardly the ideal I think Jesus was fighting for in John 17. Any church that has the words “Family Church” in its title, if going by the biblical definition, should not be thought of as the confederacy of small families getting together once and a while at the church, but instead a large family in the Church, made up of people from smaller families.


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