Counting the Cost

Jesus wants disciples. He told the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. . .” (Matthew 28:19). A disciple is a follower. Jesus wants us to follow Him, to imitate Him, to allow Him to live and reign in our hearts and lives.

Discipleship is not a nominal or casual belief in, or attachment to, Jesus. It is wholehearted devotion. Jesus was concerned that people understand that because a token faith is worthless. The cost of discipleship is great. Jesus explained that it requires loving Him above all others, following Him wherever He directs (and bearing whatever hardships that entails), and giving all that we have to Him (Luke 14:26-27, 33). In other words, discipleship is a total commitment to Jesus.

The lesson about discipleship in Luke 14 was preached as “large crowds were going along with Him” (v. 25). The Lord challenged them to stop and think, not merely “jump on the bandwagon.” He offered two illustrations of the importance of counting the cost: a man building a tower and a king going to war. Both needed to ask themselves whether they were prepared for what lay ahead before proceeding.

Some Bible students see Jesus as the cost counter in these illustrations, emphasizing the word then or therefore at the beginning of v. 33. In that case, the point is that the cost of discipleship is so high because His building requires the best materials; His warfare, the best soldiers. Most think the reference is to would-be disciples as the cost counters.

Luke 9:57-62 illustrates Jesus’ effort to get would-be disciples to consider what they were embarking on. To one who said He would follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus replied that He had no earthly home. To one who said He would follow Jesus as soon as his father’s funeral was finished, Jesus said, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead. . .” And to one who promised to follow after saying goodbye to his family, Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus did not say such things to discourage discipleship. Instead, these statements are “meant to warn us against attempting so great an undertaking with that frivolity of spirit and want of determination which insure failure” (J. W. McGarvey).

The cost of discipleship is actually the cost of gain, not loss. In view of what we gain as Jesus’ disciples—eternal salvation—no price is too high. “For what will a man profit if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26a).

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