For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? (Luke 14:28-30)
Jesus requires obedience of his disciples, but before we go off half-cocked following him, he wants us to stop for a moment and count the cost of our commitment – what discipleship may require of us in the real world.
Many disciples begin their journey alongside Jesus with a rather romantic view of what may be required. They are ready to volunteer to go anywhere, any time, but that romanticism quickly wanes when the commitment required becomes in the least bit inconvenient. The bottom line is that answering the call of Jesus to follow him means we give up any thought that there will be bits and pieces of our lives that can remain unaffected by our relationship with Jesus. We no longer have the choice to serve where we want in the way we want and then pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We do not have the luxury of deciding what we will do or where we will go based primarily on whether or not we have enough resources in reserve. Can you imagine the apostle Paul deciding where to go next based on the cost of living in a particular city? Why should we be any different? Do we not serve the same Lord? Are we not empowered with the same Holy Spirit? Are the standards of discipleship different now than they were in the first century of the church? Are there “levels” or “tiers” of discipleship based on how much of the cost we are willing to bear?
In the romantic view of discipleship, we might imagine giving up everything for Jesus so that the world would admire our faith and the people we serve express their profound gratitude for our service. More likely, the actual result be scorn from a world that sees disciples as wasting their lives and resources to do things that have little or no ROI (return on investment). This sometimes runs contrary to what we think we deserve from God in exchange for our loyalty. But this is not the pattern of Jesus, who was ridiculed even as he was dying on the cross. The grace that we need to do whatever Jesus asks of us comes only through the power of God that is infused into us by the Holy Spirit. That power comes to us as we obey Jesus, regardless of circumstances or consequences.
So this Lent, to grow our discipleship, we need to reflect on this question: how much of our service to Jesus is based upon what is convenient and how much of it is based upon doing what Jesus tells us to do?