Luke 14:25-33: The Cost of Being a Disciple
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
I’m not a fan of this passage. I think the easier path when coming across these passages is to skip over them … but, when we do, we risk missing the beauty that can be found in wrestling with Jesus’ words.
I’ll be honest with you.I don’t hate my father and mother, or my husband (well, sometimes), or my siblings. Does that mean that I can’t be a disciple? I’m not planning on building a tower or fighting a war either. So what am I supposed to learn from Jesus here?
I found this passage much easier to comprehend in a similar passage in Matthew 10:37-38, which says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. “
In his The Message Translation, Eugene Peterson translates it like this:
25-27 One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure out the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’
31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?
33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.
Jesus tells us to love everyone so he definitely doesn’t mean that we should hate our families.
He also came to fulfill the Law which tells us to honour our father and mother so how could he go against this?
The passage is hyperbole. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what that means or if you can’t pronounce the word. I just learned both the meaning and pronunciation today. Hyperbole is the use of exaggerated statements to emphasise something and is not meant to be taken literally. You’re not meant to literally hate those around you. We’re called to be a people of love, but Jesus is asking us to look at who we put first in our lives. He’s saying that we’re called to love him so much that the way we love everyone else looks like hatred in comparison. It’s not less love. It’s more.
Another aspect of Jesus’ teaching comes from how family identity affected lives at that time. Families were more than just the people you loved, they were what gave you status in society. They defined what career you ended up in. Jesus is calling us to put God before how other people shape you and how these relationships make you seen to the world. How often do we define ourselves by those around us, forgetting whose opinion matters most?
He continues by giving us examples that emphasise the dedication needed to be a true disciple. Jesus does not want us to be mindless or thoughtless followers. He is not hiding the cost involved — he is warning us about them.
I like to think I put my faith first but then I think of all the excuses I’ve made over the last few years and it’s clear this is something I need to work on. Between my work, my volunteering and my Masters, I struggle to find time to read the Bible for anything other than essays (and this blog!). I’m a chaplain and I come home exhausted most days with barely any brain space left for my faith. And I definitely don’t think I’m alone in that.
This passage is hard — but so is being a Christian. I don’t think I often feel the cost of being a true disciple. I don’t think I’m great at putting Jesus first, but I want to. I want my love for him to overshadow everything else. I want to look at the plans for the great tower and say, ‘I have what it takes to build it.’
Christina is a music and religious education teacher who was recently made chaplain in East Glendalough School in county Wicklow. She is currently working on an MA in Chaplaincy Studies at Dublin City University in between episodes of The Good Place and the Great British Bake Off.