Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
Words like these may confuse us, and we imagine Jesus to be (in his own way) pragmatic and materially-minded. We’re relieved that he is so sensible, so reasonable. We ourselves take comfort in planning and building material resources for the things we’ve planned. “Finally,” we think, “he’s saying things that resonate.” We may feel enabled, when speaking of the future, to use phrases like “humanly speaking,” which means “apart from divine intervention.” Words that allow us to go off and do it according to our own designs and desires. Why not? Jesus himself endorsed careful planning.
Is there a world—anywhere—where things happen apart from divine intervention? Is there a moment, a half-second in your life, that is not ordained of God? (See Acts 14:15-17 & Acts 17:26)
It’s always easiest to conform Jesus to our own image, rather than seeing how we must be conformed to his. His use, in Luke 14, of the twin metaphors of a man building a tower and a king going to war is not a call to practical planning. Rather he’s saying, “following me will cost you much more than you imagine.” The point of verses 26 & 33 is to say, “you must be prepared to part with your dearest relationships and most cherished possessions.” So, yes, he’s talking about cost-analysis. But these are very different costs.
Jesus is, as usual, entirely impractical, humanly speaking. The real message at the end of Luke 14 is a question: “what am I worth to you?” Scripture is very narrow-minded in this regard. Jesus is worth more than all we hold dear, including life itself.
There hardly exists a believer in North America who thinks this way. Nearly all American Christians are engaged in seeking personal happiness and fulfillment. Jesus is merely a means to that end. And, just like the culture around us, we assume personal fulfillment resides mostly in human relationships and material stability. Very few believers ever reckon with the irony of Jesus’ words in Luke 14—that these two pillars of human happiness may well be the cost of counting him worthy.
Is this what you signed up for? We will never understand Jesus’ words until we understand his claim on us. We will never understand Paul, who counted “everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Sit down and take stock. Ours is not a faith of half-measures.
Article of interest:
Check out this article, distinguishing between being Christian and Christianish.
Lisa and I wanted you to know that my sister, Marjie, who has a metastasized cancer, is coming to live with us for a time. We would appreciate your prayers. As we understand it, she will be seeking further diagnosis and most likely surgery. Life will change for us, so we appreciate your patience with things like returning emails and phone calls during her stay.