15 Pentecost Proper C18
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 14:25-33 Sermon
September 5, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
169 "All People That On Earth Do Dwell"
410 "The God Of Abraham Praise"
510 "Take My Life And Let It Be"
551 "Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus"
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
TEXT (vs. 25-27): "Large crowds were travelling 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.'"
Every Sunday morning about 5 am, there's a big "ka-thud" on my front porch that wakes me up. No, it's not somebody trying to break in. That's the sound that my Sunday Journal-Star makes when it hits the porch. As most of you know, that Sunday paper is almost the size of an unabridged dictionary--ok, well I might be exaggerating a bit.
One of the things that make the Sunday Journal-Star so big, is all of the advertisements on the inside. There's Walgreens, and CVS, and Shopko, and Home Depot, and Sears, and the list goes on. Advertisers know that their flyers stand a better chance of being read if they're inside the Sunday paper, rather than the weekday papers. That's the time people can relax and sift through everything.
But more important than people having the time to go through the advertisements, is the nagging question people are always asking: "What's it going to cost me?" That's the real appeal of those advertisements. People want to find bargains. And people want to pay as little as possible for goods and services. That's why there has been many an apartment with Goodwill dishes and utensils, and Salvation Army furniture, especially if the person is a student.
However, I don't believe that we're born with that question on our lips, "what is it going to cost me?" That's something we have to learn in life. It's a very practical question. Even in our text for today, Jesus asks the question in verse 28: "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?" That's just common sense now, isn't it?
I think about the story of a boy who's just turned 16. For his birthday, his dad goes out and buys him a car--nothing expensive or extravagant, just a modestly priced basic dependable vehicle. Dad brings it home, and mother makes a nice big bow and puts it on the top. They blindfold him and lead him out to the garage. Of course the boy is absolutely ecstatic about getting it.
It doesn't take very long before he realizes the cost of having a motor vehicle. Even if dad licenses it and pays the first year's taxes as part of the gift, there's the need to constantly purchase fuel. Then there are the oil changes, tires, and other maintenance items. And if something happens, then other things need to be done in order to keep the car running. A brake job, replacing a water pump, replacing an exhaust system, etc. all costs money. And let's not forget the one huge expense that kids seldom anticipate, and that is the insurance. Even a basic liability and medical policy is expensive for a teen.
Suddenly the teen is hit with the cold, hard facts of counting the cost of operating a motor vehicle. So he goes and gets a minimum wage job to pay for everything, which takes a huge chunk of his paycheck. If he can find the time when he's not working or going to school to go out on a date, he's got to count his pennies to come up with enough to pay for pizza and a movie.
Now suddenly that vehicle he was over the moon about on his birthday has become this huge financial albatross around his neck. But he has learned the importance of counting the cost of something.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells us that we need to "count the cost" of discipleship. In verse 26 Jesus says: "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."
What might it cost us to be a follower of Jesus? What kind of trade-off might there be when we put Jesus first? That cost is summarized by the word "hate," and that word isn't easy to reckon with either.
A lot depends on what we mean by the use of that word. If we use the word "hate" to describe actions of discrimination, or belittling someone because they're different, or causing harm and hurt, or lying about someone, or name calling, or other similar things, then that's wrong. If we do things that contradict God's love for all people, then we haven't acted in a Christian manner.
In the Bible, the word translated "hate," is the Greek word, "mi-SE-oh." The Bible doesn't have any lukewarm words, for example just "liking" someone. It's either love or hate. If we love Jesus, if we want to be his disciple, if we follow him, then we love him. If we don't follow Jesus, and if we head down some other track, then we hate him. The only two choices we are given are to either love or to hate.
Let's look at another love/hate comparison Jesus makes. In Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 he says: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."
In this instance, Jesus is talking about the love of money; but of course it can be expanded far beyond that. Our Gospel for today does that very thing. If there are those things that stand in the way of Jesus and threaten to lead us away from him, those are the things we are to hate, or to avoid. By loving such things, we are, in fact hating Jesus. When it comes to him, divided loyalties just won't work. Such things threaten the very Gospel, which unites us in love to our God.
When I was studying this text this week, I came across a story about the cost of one family's discipleship. During the Korean War, the Communists singled out Christian pastors. One day a group of 40 Communists kidnapped a pastor, his wife, and their two children. Outside the village they tried to force the minister to deny Jesus. He refused. They threatened to bury him, his wife, and children alive. The preacher refused. The family's captors, wishing to show they were serious, dug a hole in front of them. He still refused. Then they put his family in the hole and said, "Because of your stubbornness your innocent children are going to die in right in front of your own eyes. Deny Christ and we shall leave you." The pastor continued to refuse. So they started to fill the hole. The children were about to be covered. The pastor began to shake. The cries of his children tore at his heart.
What would you have done? A few words - that's all it would take, and everyone would be free. The answer came from the hole, from the pastor's wife. Seeing his pain she called out, "In a little while we shall all be with our Lord Jesus forever. Be bold and do not give up." Eventually, all of them were buried alive, including the pastor.
This pastor obviously loved his family, but he loved God even more. So did his wife and family. That is what Jesus is talking about in today's reading. Our love for God is to be so great, that our love for anyone or anything else looks like hatred in comparison.
I honestly don't know what I would do if I were to be placed in that same situation. Granted, this is an extreme example of the cost of discipleship. Thankfully the Lord has not seen fit to allow such a situation to happen to me. I think of the words the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13: "...And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I'm sure God knows how much of a spineless wimp I really am.
Back in my college and seminary days, I witnessed what a lot of my friends and classmates went through. I saw what the cost of discipleship was for them.
The particular program I was in was designed for students in special situations, namely those who were older, or who had previous college training, or had families, or were embarking on a second career.
Those who had families were the ones who really had to "count the cost." They had to give up good jobs, perhaps sell their home to pay tuition, uproot their family, and move to a strange city. They not only had to handle a full acadaemic load, but they had to work as well to put food on the table and pay the rent.
Some didn't make it. They lasted awhile, but they just couldn't hack it. So they dropped out, and went back to their previous careers. I point this out not to speak badly about them or to criticize them for doing what they did. They were still faithful Christians, and served the Lord in ways that didn't involve them being in the office of the public ministry.
But many did make it, and are great pastors today. From start to finish, it is an 8-year program. A person has to have a normal 4-year undergraduate degree, and then another 4 years of graduate school seminary training. For the same amount of training, a person can become a doctor or lawyer, and make some major dollars.
The office of the public ministry isn't something that people are to seek just so they can make big money. Those that have pursued the "money god" in ministry have brought the office into disrepute, and are otherwise not very well respected amongst the people.
For the most part however, those who have worked hard to get their schooling are happy they made the decision they did. For them, money really isn't an issue. Bringing people to a relationship with their Saviour is something that cannot carry a price tag. They counted the cost, and reckoned it was well worth it.
If we look at our relationship between God and ourselves, we can see how this all plays out. We are all sinners and part of the sinful human race. Sin separates us from God. Dare I say that God might even hate us? We know he hates and detests sin. But what about people like you and me? If we were to be judged according to our sins, then that hatred of sin would be carried out in us. We would be punished for our sins and subsequently suffer eternal perdition.
But the Bible tells us that God loves us; he hates the sin but loves the sinner. Therefore we look to Jesus to see the example of that love. God doesn't want us to experience eternal punishment, but eternal life. God doesn't want to punish us as our sins deserve, but forgive us our sins out of pure love, which is something we don't deserve at all.
That's why Jesus is the object of our faith. Jesus comes to us as the supreme act of God's love for us. Believe in him as your Saviour, and you will receive complete and total forgiveness for all your sins. Out of love he took those sins away from you and put them on himself. He took the bondage of the law and freed us from it. Through faith in Jesus, we are no longer under the curse of the law, but the freedom of the Gospel.
So what is the cost of our discipleship? For some people today, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ can mean certain death, especially in some non-Christian countries. But for a lot of people, the issues they face probably aren't that drastic.
The cost of being Christ's disciple is something that differs from individual to individual. Nobody goes through exactly the same thing. Even so, there is still a cost involved; and as such, we will be continually asking ourselves, "Is it worth it? How much is it going to cost me?"
I don't think I'm much different than anybody else when it comes to buying something. I'm always looking for the best deal. I'll look through the grocery ads to find where I can get milk or juice or coffee on sale. I'll look at things on Ebay or Craig's List to see if I can get a good deal. I'll go out to Eco-Stores and buy a used door, or a sink, or a cabinet, rather than getting a new one at Home Depot or Menard's. I'll always ask the question, "How much is it going to cost?" That's being practical.
When we are Disciples of Christ, we don't go shopping around for the best deal, because we already have it. The cost of discipleship might not be easy, and it certainly isn't cheap. But the freedom we experience in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is definitely worth it.
So we love Christ and follow him. We love him because he first loved us, and gave himself for us. Being our Saviour cost Jesus his life on the cross. This is the price Jesus paid for our forgiveness, which is ours through faith alone. It cost Jesus everything, but it costs us nothing.
Therefore, let us always remain true disciples of Jesus, regardless of the earthly expense. We know without a doubt that when we exchange our sinfulness for Christ's righteousness, it is the best deal there ever was or ever will be. And we can be assured that whatever our discipleship costs us in earthly terms, it will always be worth it.