What is the Cost to Being a Disciple?

*Gospel Reading…………………………………………… Luke 14:25-33 (The Message)

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.


Discipleship is demanding. I chose to have Darrell read the Message version of this scripture because it’s softer than some of the other translations. It’s also more accurate. The popular translation of this text reads: ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” And then, “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” This is really tough stuff. We can’t be Jesus’ disciples unless we hate our parents and spouses and families? We can’t be Jesus’ disciples unless we carry the cross, which leads to death? We can’t be Jesus’ disciples unless we give up everything we own? Holy Cow. Can you imagine me trying to convert folks with these three demands?

To belong to Battle Ground Community UMC, you have to hate your whole family, you have to carry your cross, which leads to death, and you have to give up all your possessions? Who in their right mind would ever want to be Jesus’ disciple if that’s the case? Not me.

But as I researched this passage this week, I learned a few things. First let’s ponder the idea of Jesus telling us to hate. That seems terribly out of character of our Lord and teacher, especially when he also tells us to love our enemies. What are we to make of this “hate” language?

Well it turns out that the Aramaic word for “hate” is more like “love less than.” The way we understand hate is feeling intense hostility toward something or someone. That’s not the definition Jesus was working with. There are other scriptural references to this word “hate.” In Deuteronomy 21:15, a man with two wives should love one and hate the other. It is not that the husband of two wives should be hostile toward any of his wives; it’s just that he will prefer the first to the second. Also in the story of Jacob and Esau, the Lord says “Jacob I have loved. Esau I have hated.” It’s not that Esau was not loved by God, it’s that Jacob was preferred over Esau. Both were still loved.

The same can be applied to the idea of hating our parents, children, siblings, etc… found in this passage. We are not called to hate any of our family members, or any person for that matter. We are called to have a preference over our family, and we must prefer God to all things. We must love God more than anything else in the universe. That’s step one to being Jesus’ disciple. I think I can work on that, how about you? Can you move into a place where God takes precedence over everything else in your life? It’s tough, but who said discipleship was easy?

The next thing that we have to do if we are to be Jesus’ disciple is to “carry your cross and follow Jesus.” Well, what does it mean to “carry our cross” and where is Jesus going? Jesus is going to Jerusalem, where he is fully aware he will be persecuted. Are we willing to put ourselves in a place where we may feel persecuted? What does it mean for us to carry our cross?

I think carrying our cross is about making a choice. We choose to carry the burdens and realities of a life that has made a certain commitment, and that commitment is to a way of life that brings about the Kingdom of God. Whenever we do something to usher in God’s kingdom, we are carrying our cross. Now let’s be clear, ushering in God’s Kingdom is not popular. God’s ways are not our ways and there will be pushback when we make choices and act in the interest of loving all our neighbors. Ushering in God’s kingdom is counter to our culture and many won’t like it. Just as many didn’t like the work Jesus was doing. Never-the-less, we’re not here to be popular, we’re here to be the hands and feet of Christ so that God’s kingdom is here on earth as it is in heaven.

And finally, to be a disciple, we must give up all our possessions. The Message paraphrases this verse by saying, “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.” In other words, nothing should have its grip on you more than God and God alone. Remember, nothing is forever, nothing is steadfast, and nothing is eternal, except God. Everything else in the universe comes and goes. Wealth. Family. Work. Friends. Homes. And so on. Nothing is forever, except God. Nothing is promised to us, except God’s steadfast love. Being willing to give up our possessions is another way of saying; we will put God before all things. So, again, to be Jesus’ disciple, we must put God first and foremost above all else.

In closing, I’d like to reflect on today’s Old Testament reading from Jeremiah. Remember what Darrell read about the God being a potter and we are the clay? It’s important to realize that we can’t be the disciples that Jesus calls us to be if we don’t allow ourselves to be shaped and molded by God, the Creator. Loving God more than our dearest loved ones, carrying our cross even to death, and giving up our possessions is too hard for us to do alone. God wants our lives so He can work through us to transform the world and bring the kingdom of God to our earth. God wants our lives so we can be the hands and feet of Christ. God wants our lives so that we can participate in bringing heaven to earth.

As we take a moment to reflect, let us remember that we are unable to function in the way Jesus calls us to when we don’t call on God for help. So let us close our eyes and pray during this reflection time. Let us pray that God take our life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee, so that we can grow into the disciples that we so long to become.