From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 2 – A closer look at how God develops us as disciples
Being a genuine disciple involves paying a high price. At any rate, the cost of real discipleship is far higher than most of us have been told to expect. Therefore we need to be much more realistic about that cost and be willing to pay whatever it takes. The truth is that Jesus makes very high demands of us at times. Here is a passage where Jesus makes these points in His own graphic way:
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”Matthew 8:18-22 (ESV)
Jesus means that when we choose to follow Him we need to give up any idea of having any rights, entitlements or expectations. We must hand over our entire lives to Him and follow Him, wherever He goes and whatever it costs. Consider this very frank statement by Jesus in Luke’s gospel about the high level of commitment involved in true discipleship.
He speaks of the need to ‘hate’ our father and mother etc. He does not mean that literally. It is a figure of speech. We know that, because the fifth commandment tells us all to honour our father and mother. What Jesus means is simply that other people must all be put into second place, behind Him.
He wants us to count the cost of following Him realistically, ahead of time, and to resolve to be willing to pay it, before we even begin. In fact, from the outset, we must renounce all that we have and see it as His property. We must then focus on following Him as our top priority, ahead of everything else and everyone else:
25 Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:25-33 (RSV)
For many of us the hardest thing to give up and to hand over to Jesus is our money and possessions. They can exert a terrifically strong hold over us. Nevertheless, we must be willing to give it all to Him and consider it all as being at His disposal. Indeed, some of us will be called to literally give it all away:
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”Luke 18:18-30 (ESV)