Three Parables; One Lesson
The text this week is Luke 14:25-33. This has Jesus teaching about the cost of discipleship. That is the title of a wonderful book by the great theologian, and martyr to the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A book that had a sizable impact on my faith journey. The main point of the book is that if we do not respond to the grace that God has bestowed upon us then we have grabbed what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace”. That is the “why” of my web site name: if we believe, then we obey.
This passage gets to the heart of that. First, Jesus talks about the personal cost of relationships gone south because of your faith in Him as Risen Lord. Unless you turn all your life to Jesus you are cheapening His grace. Those who turn from you may include fathers, mothers, spouses, children and siblings. It does not matter. Everything is to and for God in response to His gift to us of …everything.
Jesus then talks about two examples of more social or cooperative costs that we must be prepared to bear in response to our faith. First, there is the story of the builders of a tower who start work without estimating the cost and ascertaining if they have enough resources to complete the project. This is a clear call to live within the means that God has provided to us. This is certainly a personal call and by extension, I would suggest, a societal one. Breaches of this advice are too legion to allow for a listing here.
The point is that this involves some sacrifice. We cannot have everything all at once, right now. We must defer consumption, save our resources and prioritize them. This means not just for the completion of economic things like towers and such, but also to direct some resources toward those who need help; the least among us. None of this is easy, but were you looking for Grace on sale?
The next example is even more difficult. It involves the story of a military commander faced with impossible odds. Jesus recommends that in this case you negotiate. That is, we should swallow our pride and do the prudent, right thing in the name of peace. There are times when we cannot win, and therefore should not fight. I would suggest that for the Christian conscience this means negotiating away all threats of violence. But this may mean in a more personal way that we yield to the greater good despite our own egos.
Giving it All Up
Jesus concludes this passage by reminding us that we cannot become his disciple “if you do not give up all your possessions” (Verse 33). This means that while we maintain control of what we have been given, it is the control not of an owner but of a steward. All that we have and all that we are belongs to God. It is not an easy call to answer but because God has given us everything, can we offer Him less?
So, set aside cheap grace, pick up the cross that we all must bear. Know that this will entail costs both personal and social. That does not mean that we need be cheerless. We have heard God’s good and gracious word and we believe. Because of this we may be confident in our salvation. This should fill us with great cheer, and great hope. Just remember that we, costs notwithstanding, should believe then obey.
Praise Be to God