It’s an odd thing to call salvation free. I mean, on the one hand, it is free. Totally free. Grace comes to us without requiring payment and without regard for our history. It is simply ours if we want it; if we will accept it from Jesus. But it’s the most costly free we will ever encounter.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 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. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:28-33
In truth, it’s not the salvation that’s costly. As I said, that’s free. Grace is grace because it’s free. But it’s the life that comes after accepting, the life of following, that comes at a cost. And it costs us everything.
But maybe this is misleading too. It’s not a cost in the sense of paying for something. What we have from Jesus—the Life abundant he describes—remains forever free. But the life of following this Jesus, the life of relationship has a “cost” and that cost is everything. The word I’m looking for here is one none of us likes. It’s a word we avoid and when we say it we usually think of other people and how it relates to them. It’s easier than thinking of it in terms of our selves.
That’s the word. And in a sense, surrender is all about cost. It’s all about giving up and handing over. It’s about submitting and relinquishing control. And we just don’t like this kind of thing. But Jesus wants us to know up front: grace is free, but living with Jesus will cost us everything. That goes back to the reality that he must be first. And so he lays it out here, talking about the cost and making sure we take the time to consider it and commit to it.
For the second time in just a few sentences Jesus uses the words. “…cannot be my disciple.” He used it in verse 17, which we looked at yesterday, and he uses it here in verse 33.
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
He’s not saying we aren’t allowed to own possessions, and he’s not saying that when we accept the saving Jesus offers we should become homeless. This isn’t about possessions really. It’s about us and our heart and our priorities. Again it’s about surrender. It’s about giving up control of our stuff. Letting God take priority over everything else.
The difficult thing about this is that it’s easy to say we give up everything when we still hold it in our hands. It’s hard to hold on loosely and fight the tendency to grip our stuff firmly. We grow attached, we find security, and we even tend to place our identity in our stuff. And Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me you can’t do that. You have to hold it with an open hand. You have to let me be in control of it. You have to give it up.”
Today I’m thinking about the stuff I have, the roles I fulfill, the people I spend my time with. I’m considering the ways in which I let that stuff define me. I’m considering the ways in which I let that stuff consume me. And I’m praying for the courage to give it up and follow.