Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘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. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. ‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
People wiser than I have written volumes on the meaning of the first verse in this text – so I’ll leave it to them. It is sufficient to say that Jesus is not asking us to hate our family – rather, he is saying that nothing – not even family – should be more important to us than himself.
He doesn’t stop there. We are used to thinking of God’s grace being free. Jesus, however, is saying there is a cost to being his followers. We can not earn our salvation, but being disciples of Jesus comes at a price.
Faith is supposed to change us, it is supposed to make us like him.
Have you noticed how often people in the New Testament refer to themselves, and to other Christians, as ‘slaves of Christ’? A slave owns nothing. If you are a slave of Christ, all you have – your possessions, your rights, your desires, your dreams, your plans, even your very life – none of them are yours. They all belong to Christ.
I am often amazed at Christians insisting on getting their own way. What Jesus says here is shocking, but it shows how important it is: a Christian that hasn’t put everything on the altar, is not even good for the manure heap. A Christian that isn’t ready to pay the price, can’t even salt, err.. poop. God has no use for such a one.
I grew up in a country where Christians were persecuted. When I became too much of a problem, the ‘secret police’ asked me to emigrate if I wanted to survive. I left behind a pregnant wife and three young children. I was one of the lucky ones; others went to prison for their faith, and some never came back.
Here in the UK we are not persecuted; instead we are being enticed with distractions, with possessions, with pride, with ‘rights’. Jesus asks us to give it all away – only then can we follow him.
Lord Jesus, you left heaven, gave everything up – even your everlasting life – for us. For me. This is how much you want us for yourself. Forgive me when I think of anything – including my very self – as being ‘mine’. Give us a proper perspective – to look not at the cost, but at the prize. Give me a heart that holds on to nothing but you. Amen.