Read Luke 14
Focus on verse 28-30
There are two ways of looking at success. There are times in the past when I have laid out a detailed plan and then attempted to follow it. In other cases I have used the “paint a target around the arrow after it lands” technique. It’s a guaranteed bull’s eye every time, but you rarely end up where you need to be. In an ideal world, we would all carefully craft a plan that we then meticulously follow through to success. Unfortunately we live in an imperfect world, and very often the plan has to be amended in order for it to succeed, so somewhere between meticulously actually shooting a bull’s eye, and painting the target after the arrow lands is probably where most of us live.
In today’s reading Jesus addresses the cost of following Him. He minces no words when He describes what it will cost those who choose to follow (v. 26-27) and then cautions His listeners to count the cost before they begin.
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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (v. 28-30)
Jesus is not trying to talk people out of following Him – although it does seem that the crowds that were flocking after him do seem to diminish after this point in the gospel narrative. What Jesus is looking for is that those who choose to follow be 100% committed to following. There can be no turning back – no second-guessing. This is not a calling for the faint of heart. It may well cost the follower everything he or she has by way of human relationships and material possessions, but the return for paying that price appears to be worth the cost.
There are some who have chosen not to pay the price of following Jesus and have instead managed to accumulated tremendous worldly wealth, fame and power, but at the end of that road they will have to leave it all behind and face an eternity apart from God. Others have calculated the cost and chosen to give up what the world has to offer, choosing instead to follow Jesus at what appears to be great cost to those who measure value by worldly means.
Perhaps the key word here is “value”. If we value what the world offers more highly than what Jesus offers – it would seem foolish to give it all up to follow Jesus. On the other hand if we value what Jesus offers more highly than what the world offers – it makes perfect sense to let it go to follow Jesus. Jesus did observe that, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Luke 12:34)
The bottom line seems then that it comes down to whether we measure success by temporal or eternal values. One might deduce then that if one does not believe in eternity that one should then measure success by earthly standards. The only hitch with that is – is it true? Just because one chooses to believe that there is no afterlife does not necessarily make it true, and, same could be said of eternal life. It is not what we believe that makes something true or not. One or the other is true and if it is true that there is an after life, then it cannot be true that there is none and vice versa. So the issue becomes – “how do we know what is true, so that we can align what we believe with truth so that our lives make sense.”
It would seem to me that when I add up the evidence of archeology, science and the Bible, to the best of my ability, there is sufficient evidence for me to choose to believe that what the Bible claims about Jesus, and God, and life on this planet is by and large true. Ultimately, there is a step of faith involved regardless of which way one chooses to go on this issue. We either choose to believe God exists or we choose to believe He doesn’t. The choice is ours – and it is an important choice because the consequences of making that choice will have eternal consequences.