25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, 26 “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. 30 They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ 31 Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? 32 And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. 33 In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good. But if salt loses its flavor, how will it become salty again? 35 It has no value, neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. People throw it away. Whoever has ears to hear should pay attention.”
The passage begins, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus…” I imagine they got a lot thinner after hearing this. These words are some of the hardest in all the New Testament.
To understand them properly, we first need to remember that Jesus often spoke using hyperbole – exaggerating his point to grab your attention. Otherwise, the idea of “hating” your family can’t be reconciled with many other teachings of Jesus, including the bedrock idea of “loving” your neighbor.
So clearly Jesus means something else. The context here is a teaching about commitment and priorities. Who or what has first place in our lives?
He’s also talking about the cost. Remember that following Jesus in the first century meant real hardship: facing rejection, exclusion, and persecution from your family and community in a way that just isn’t true today – at least not where we live. He wanted to ask this big crowd of would-be followers: are you ready for that? Are you ready to pay the cost?
The stakes might not be the same as they were in the first century, but still the question remains: if we want to follow Jesus, are we ready to pay the cost?
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Consider the commitment behind this prayer, attributed to St. Francis of Loyola. Pray this along with him today:
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your will. Amen.