So, you are eating bacon and eggs for breakfast. And you ask yourself, “Who was more committed to providing breakfast for me; the chicken or the pig?” The chicken? Well, the chicken made a donation. The pig? Now, that pig was committed to providing savory breakfast meat. Jesus said that if we want to follow him, we have ourselves a cross to pick up. And picking up a cross is all about dying; all about being committed to following Christ. We are not talking about making a donation here.
Luke 14:25-35 is all about what it means to be a disciple. We are reminded again of the journey narrative. There is this large crowd traveling along with Jesus along the journey. There may have been a buzz of excitement; a can this be the time and can this Jesus be the one buzz. Along the way Jesus tells them, “If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Okay, what the what? At this point many will compare this to Matthew 10:37. But again there are enough differences to allow a similar statement uttered at a different time for a different reason. It seems likely that this is an example of Hebrew hyperbole, and translating it with something like “love less” may slightly diminish what Jesus is saying. Nothing, absolutely nothing, should have more of a hold on you than following Jesus. So much so that you hate, despise, anything that hinders, hampers, deters, discourages, or anyway gets in the way of your commitment to follow. So, if a wife or a child or even your own self, stands in the way of Jesus, you push past and follow Jesus. This will, no doubt, feel like hatred. And to many a family member it did and does. And then he uttered another traveling saying: whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me be my disciple. Following Jesus is about carrying a cross around; being ready to die. Just as Jesus was on his way – ready – to die on his cross.
And since following Jesus is about ready to die commitment, one really should seriously consider the cost before setting foot on the journey. Jesus tells two parables to illustrate this concept. If you are going to build a tower (probably a watchtower for a vineyard or garden), you will want to sit down and calculate whether or not you can afford to finish the project. I mean how embarrassing would it be to lay the foundation and run out of funds? This failure to consider the cost would be a public blunder and open to ridicule. Or, think of a king who sets out to meet another king in battle. If he marches his army out and then realizes he cannot win this battle, he will have to negotiate terms, and most likely to his detriment. How much better would it be to consider everything before setting out to fight only to realize you have no stomach for what is before you. Jesus’ point here is not avoiding overwhelming odds. His point is being aware of the odds and committing to the battle. I think many an evangelist fails to see the significance of these words. We excitedly speak of the benefits of following Christ and we naively or purposely fail to mention the cross; the dying to self; the putting Jesus before all other entanglements. And this includes possessions. Following Jesus is not about getting more money or things. It is about subjecting those things to his service. Giving up possessions means you own nothing. It all belongs to God and is for God.
And how does the discussion of salt fit in here? As a seasoning, salt flavors food by giving up of itself. But if that saltiness is leached out before it is put on the food, the salt serves no purpose. It can now add nothing to food. And it doesn’t matter whether salt can lose its saltiness or not. I’ve heard it both ways. Maybe Jesus is touching on a truth here. Merely dying to self is not the lesson. Some people die to themselves in an unhealthy way that has nothing to do with following Jesus. They hate themselves and the world. They have lost their ability to add flavor. The dying to yourself that Jesus calls us to is a dying that holds onto your essence, but uses it to add flavor to the world; to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is about commitment; the pig kind of commitment; the kind of commitment that is willing to be used by Jesus to add flavor to the world; to have your abilities – your saltiness – as a seasoning for the benefit, not of yourself, but for others. Don’t get me wrong, following Jesus is the best life; the only life really. But before you go around spouting that you are a disciple, count the cost. It will cost you everything. You should know that before you set foot on the journey. Because it will not do anyone any good for you to quit along the way. Ah, but if you commit to Jesus, the benefits our out of this world. Peace.