On Counting the Cost
( Originally Published 1915 )
THIS TIME while Jesus was in Perea, preaching in the towns, greater crowds than ever before were following him, claiming to believe in him as the son of David and the King of Israel. Most of these people saw that he was going toward Jerusalem, and the report went abroad among them that when he reached that city he would take the throne that had been King David's; and not only would be king of that land but lead the Jewish people to conquer all the lands. Very many of the crowd following Jesus had no thought of what it meant to be his disciples. They were expecting great thingsóriches and honor and poweróbut knew nothing of the sufferings that Jesus must endure and that his followers must face in the days soon to come.
Jesus was not willing to have such careless and thoughtless followers as these. He spoke to them words that seemed harsh and forbidding, but were meant to make them think of what they must meet if they would be among those who believed in him. Turning to the multitudes that were flocking around him, he called out to them:
"If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life besides, he cannot be a disciple of mine. Whoever does not carry his own cross and walk in my steps cannot be a disciple of mine!"
Jesus did not mean quite all these words he seemed to speak. He did not wish sons and daughters really to hate their fathers and mothers, nor parents to hate their own children; but he did mean that no one should say, `My father and mother do not consent to my following Jesus, and therefore I cannot be his disciple.' Nor did he wish that parents should say, `I have children to care for, and I must not believe in Jesus, and become his disciple.' He wished those who were following him without thought, to ask themselves whether they were willing to lose all for Christ's sake, and to serve him, no matter who were opposed to him or what they might suffer in his service.
"Who of you," said Jesus, "when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, and see whether he has enough money to finish it? If he can only lay the foundation, and then must leave the work unfinished, everybody who sees the half-completed wall will laugh at him and say, `This fellow began to build, but he could not finish!'
"Or what king sets out to go to war with another king, and does not first sit down to consider whether with ten thousand soldiers he can fight the king who _comes against him with twenty thousand? If he does not dare to meet his enemy, then while his army is still a great way off, he sends an officer to ask for terms of peace. So will it be with every one of you who will not give up all that he has; he cannot be a disciple of mine."
What Jesus meant was this, "Think whether you will hold out to the end, if you would be among my followers. And think, too, whether you will dare to meet the hate and opposition that you must overcome in becoming my disciples." He went on with such words as these :
"Every true disciple of mine is like salt; and salt is good as long as it has its own salty taste. But if it loses its saltiness and becomes tasteless, is there any way to make it good salt again? It is of no use either for the land, nor even for the manure heap, but people throw it away as useless. So will it be with everyone who loses the salt of my life in himself. Now, do not let these words of mine go into one ear and out from the other. Listen, and think of what I have said!"