I‘m going to warn you right now. You're not going to feel comfortable reading this article. Jesus' words here are very challenging, and what I'm about to share with you may dishearten you if you haven't already considered the following passage in detail. In Luke 14:26-33 we read:
26 “If anyone 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 out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate 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 a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-33 (WEB)
There is far more depth to this passage than what I'm going to cover today. But since Bible Money Matters is about personal finance from a Christian perspective, we're going to look at this passage in the context of personal finances.
So my question for you (and myself) is this: When it comes to your finances, have you counted the cost of following Jesus?
When you read about personal finance in the secular press (offline or online) you see that it's all about you. What do you want? What are your goals? What are your dreams? What will make you happy?
But for Christians, life is not about us. Your personal finances are not all about you. When we choose to follow Christ, we must lay down all that we have and all that we are at His feet. We give up our will and say to God, “Your will be done.”
This has powerful implications for a Christian's personal finances. We must start asking ourselves if the financial decisions we're making are ruled by our will or God's will. Then we must make the choice of following Christ or walking down our own path.
The problem is that we often fail to consciously consider those questions. Think about it. When was the last time you said to yourself, “Should I really buy that iPhone, or does God want me to do something else with the money?”
Or perhaps, “I really want to have a vacation home. But does God desire that for my life?”
Maybe this is you: “I can't wait to have enough money so I can retire early and [travel, golf, relax] more. But I wonder how God would want me to spend my retirement. Or would He even want me to retire at all?!”
The truth is that we rarely question our desires and motives like this. Instead, we go on about our lives following the norms of our culture without hesitation.
Jesus is warning us to consider the cost of following Him because He knows we can't follow Him unless we do this first. Otherwise, we'll stick to our old ways and live as though nothing has changed. I'm not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit as we grow in Christ, but you have to be open to the Spirit's working before you can expect to see change. If you haven't counted the cost, how will you know what changes to pray for or look for in your life?
Take time to count the cost now. Realize that following Christ may mean giving up your dream home, your big luxuries, and even your little luxuries in order to pursue God and share His love with the world. Understand that Jesus calls us not to an easy life on Earth but to a difficult, arduous, and trying narrow path. Consider that you may have to lay down your life if you wish to follow Jesus to the end.
As the world sees it, there is a great cost to follow Jesus. Why would you want to sacrifice your comfort in order to give to the poor? Why worry about what God thinks of how you spend your time and money? How could you even think about giving up the retirement of your dreams, which you've worked so hard for, in order to honor God???
But what the world doesn't see is the great reward that comes from knowing Christ. The world can't see the innumerable, everlasting heavenly riches that you have in Him. The world can't see the joy of loving others even though it may require sacrifice on your part. The world can't comprehend how the love of God could move you to live a life of contentment that overflows into generosity.
Counting the cost will discourage anyone who doesn't keep their eyes on the eternal reward we can have in Jesus Christ. If all you look at is your life in this world, then the things of this world will overpower the promises of God (at least in your mind) and you will never be able to follow Jesus. You will only go so far and then say, “Wait, I can't do this. I don't want to give up my desires. I don't want to give up my wealth. I've worked for it! I deserve it! Jesus, you're just not worth it!!!”
How foolish would that be?! And yet, we do it every day in the choices we make with our money, don't we? Brothers and sisters, let's start questioning the way the world does things. Let's not follow our culture in how we deal with and think about money. Let's focus on eternity. Let's keep our eyes on the prize we have in Christ so that we may lay hold of eternal life and the crown of glory that awaits us!
Jesus' challenge to His disciples here is clear. We must love Him above all else. We must be willing to follow Him at all costs – even death. We cannot hold on to our desires, our wants, or our dreams if they are in conflict with God's will. If we will not do this, then Jesus is very clear. We can't be His disciples.
Jesus doesn't give us any exceptions here. He makes it clear that nothing can come between our relationship with Him – not our family, not our spouse, and not even our own death. Talk about a challenge! It's not easy to follow Jesus.
The challenge laid before anyone who wants to follow Christ is plain. We must let go of our grip on this world and pursue the kingdom of God relentlessly. When it comes to your finances, are you willing to say, “Lord, take it. Have it all! Do what You want with it. Show me how to honor You with my money, my choices, and my time. Change my way of thinking. Renew my heart and cleanse me from the ways I've learned from this world. Teach me to follow You no matter what!“?
If you're not up to that challenge, I'd carefully consider Jesus' words in this passage. I would dwell on them until the crushing weight of this truth bears down on my soul. Jesus is clear. If we can't hand it all over to Him, we cannot follow Him.
Note: Please understand that I'm not talking about salvation based on your works. Living this way won't make you righteous enough to save yourself, and it's not a requirement before you accept Jesus. But once you say you're going to follow Him, you have to be willing to leave this world and all its trappings behind. If you're not willing to do that, Jesus unequivocally tells us that you cannot be His disciple.