“Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:27)
I love this scripture passage. Here, Jesus endorses the virtues of accounting. I was an accountant before going to seminary. So it has always tickled me that Jesus told a story that praised counting the costs of a project – a good accounting concept. But here Jesus isn’t really talking about dollars and cents. He’s talking about the cost of following him as Lord. He’s talking about the price of discipleship.
But you may be thinking, “What cost?” You may be thinking that so far in life being a Christian has been easy. Perhaps you were baptized as a baby or a child. Perhaps you went to Sunday school as a child and then to church as an adult. What’s so difficult about that?
But Jesus tells us that the demands of true discipleship are costly. Truly following Jesus as our Lord and Savior can be difficult and requires sacrifice. Several years ago, the Episcopal Church in upper South Carolina had a bishop named Dorsey Henderson. During the sacrament of Confirmation, Bishop Henderson used an ancient custom of the Church: He would give the person he confirmed a light slap to the cheek. This action was meant to remind us that following Jesus not only brings joy but also brings a responsibility that can include rejection and sacrifice.
Jesus calls his disciples to be ready to choose obedience to him over family. He calls his disciples to devote their entire lives to him, including all their possessions. He even calls his followers to be prepared to follow his example – to sacrifice their very lives – for the sake of remaining true to God. This is the cost of discipleship.
Throughout Christian history, followers of Jesus have paid the ultimate price for their faith. St. Paul, the writer of many of the letters in the New Testament, was ultimately executed by the Roman government because he proclaimed Jesus as Lord. Many have given their lives for their faith since then. Even today, there are faithful Christians who give their lives for their faith. In 2007 three Christians were murdered in Turkey. All three were employees of a Christian publishing company. One was a German missionary. The other two were Turkish converts to Christianity. They were murdered by fanatics who thought that they were serving their religion.
These three men died for their faith in Jesus. They paid the ultimate price.
Most likely, you and I will not have to pay such a high price for our faith. But we will be called to pay a price. As disciples of Jesus, we are all called to give up our own way of life in exchange for Jesus’ way of life. It may mean sharing our possessions with those who are in needs. It may mean being rejected by those who don’t share our values. It may mean seeking forgiveness rather than revenge. How are you called to sacrifice so that others will know the love of God through your life?
Sometimes this call seems difficult, if not impossible. We wonder if we can bear the cost. But we do not do it alone. When we trust in the Lord – rather than ourselves, or others, or our things – when we trust in the Lord alone, then we will be empowered to follow Jesus. We will be able to live the life he calls us to live. We will be able to serve as his witnesses to the world – no matter the cost.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located at 501 Pine St. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .