The theme in this parable is covered in an earlier parable, but it is good to be reminded about this regularly. I read this parable in the context beginning from Luke 14:26-27.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple, and whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
When I first saw this, I thought well Jesus doesn’t mean to literally hate our family, He must mean to love them less than we are to love Him. But I discovered that in the context of this statement that Jesus really did mean to hate. When you study the Greek text we find that certain throngs of people had been consistently following Jesus wherever He went. He knew that their motives were prompted by self-centeredness and not for God’s glory. They were following for self gain: food, prestige miracles whatever!
Jesus deliberately used shock tactics regarding commitment to Him. Many people would have been offended and walked away in disgust. Shock can have a cleansing effect! In this case it sorted out the takers from those who were genuinely searching for truth.
Our spouse, our children and our parents are the closest relationships we have. They will stick by you even if other people desert you or give up on you. We can rely on those who really love us to stand up for us no matter what. Yet, Jesus was saying that unless we love Him far more than our immediate family, we cannot be His disciple.
There is a big difference between a follower and a disciple. Jesus didn’t tell us to make converts, He said to make disciples. We read this in the great commission He gave the church in Matthew 28:18-19a. Jesus said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” A disciple is committed long term! To survive we have to love Him more than anything or anyone else. If not Satan will see to it that we won’t hold the line for long. Jesus must be preeminent in our love scale.
The word “hate” here is a metaphor: it’s a word of comparison. Jesus is saying my relationship with you is to be above every relationship you have. Do you know there is one person you love more than any other person in the whole world? This person is you! Let me illustrate that: in a group photo, who do you focus on? You of course! If it’s a good photo of you then you say it’s a great group photo. Mostly, you don’t even bother to check out the faces of the others, you just look at your own face!
We must daily surrender our own selfish life to Him: it an ongoing process. As mentioned in other parables, we are in a spiritual war. The act of dying to ourselves will go on to our physical death or to the Rapture, whichever comes first.
Galatians 5:16-17 says: “I say then; Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
This fixation about our own importance is why many marriages fail. One spouse will love themselves more than they want to honor their commitment vow to God. If our spouse doesn’t fulfill our needs we want a divorce so we can find someone who will fulfill us.
If we love even our self more than Jesus, we are not worthy of Him. His grace however will bring us to that point. Some religious sects have majored on this verse because the devil wants to destroy families. Young people have been convinced to leave home and the security if offers to go join some weird group out to control their lives.
Jesus set a very high standard here. The apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). We cannot do it in our strength, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can love Jesus more than our loved ones and even our own life. To be honest, until Jesus is in that place, life simply isn’t as rich as it could be. You see, the trouble is when you become a Christian and you start to act in godly ways, sometimes your family will start to act differently towards you. If you are the only Christian in your family, there may be persecutions and tribulations.
Let us gain some more context from verse 27, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Here, Jesus is reinforcing the high cost of commitment. Salvation is free, but it costs you everything you have! It is one thing to sing about loving Jesus but it’s another thing to be a disciple. A disciple is someone who practices the things that Jesus taught.
The parable starts in verse 28: 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’?
Living the Kingdom way is hard. When people around you find out you are a Christian, they are going to be watching you, just like the builder of this tower. It is not going to be easy “leaving” your old lifestyle for the things of God...
Let us say you are going build a block of apartments, rent them to people, and make a lot of money. It has been your dream and you begin the project in faith. You have a good job and you are confident that you could arrange the finances for the construction. What if in the middle of the project, you suddenly lost your job and you couldn’t pay the loan back?
Or if you had money and you projected a cost, but you made a wrong calculation. It says here that before you start something like this, you should sit down with proper accountants and cost analysts for the projection. Because if you start putting up half a block of apartments and then you stop building due to bad finances, everyone in the neighborhood is going to laugh at you.
Jesus was essentially saying that the Christian life is like that. If you decide to become a Christian, people are going to watch you, and they will be the first to ridicule you if you decide that it’s too difficult and you no longer have the enthusiasm to continue. We should know at the outset that the journey in being a disciple may be hard.
Through this book, I encourage you to make the decision to give your life to Him. Read out loud the prayer written in the appendix of this book and experience the changes that the Holy Spirit will bring about in your life.
For some Christians, things may not go as well as you thought they would. Maybe you are stuck, depressed, hurt, broken; you do not have vision; you do not know the purpose of your life; you are not being used; or you are not fulfilled. Well, that is not the life God had planned for you. God has a life for you where you live in total abandonment to Jesus Christ and your life is fully surrendered to Him.
A sailing ship without the sails up just coasts along: it takes effort to put those sails up and once they are up the boat meets the resistance of the wind and it sails, and now the boat not only sails with the wind, but can go against the wind in a tack. Now, if you don’t have your sails up to catch the Spirit of the Living God; if the wind cannot move your sails; if you have not given your life to God and said, “I surrender, Lord”; if you are still trying to run your own life and not allowing the Holy Spirit to give you directions—you are like a ship with no sail up. You are going nowhere.
If you are hundreds of miles out to sea, you could starve. You will be at the mercy of the seas, which will break all over you if your sails are not up. You have to learn how to move in the Holy Spirit, but you need to know that Christianity comes with a cost and if you are one of those people who made a decision for Christ and you think it is not working for you now, just take comfort in the fact that Jesus warned us in this parable.
Know that you can have love, success, joy and peace. You can have purpose in life. Your sin-muddied life can turn into a life of holiness and righteousness. You can be transformed by God, but it comes at a cost.
Be prepared to pray to the Lord and surrender your life fully to him. Ask Him to take control: truly you will never look back!