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My friends in the world of Alcoholic’s Anonymous often point to two troublesome areas in maintaining sobriety – finances and romances. Relationship issues and money can often be the downfall of people in recovery.
Jesus didn’t use the phrase, “finances and romances,” with is followers, but he highlighted their role in following him.
Finances and Romances in Luke
According the Gospel of Luke, this is the way Jesus addressed the issue.
Luke wrote, “Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.25-27).
The writers of the Gospels quote Jesus giving his followers this challenging message on seven different occasions. Since it is mentioned seven times, we certainly should pay serious attention to his words.
Just to be clear and using Dallas Willard’s language, a disciple is someone who seeks to live a Jesus-kind-of-life. There are three elements in Jesus’ call to discipleship.
(1) We are to deny ourselves. In this instance Jesus placed his emphasis denying toxic family relationships that draw us away from following him.
(2) Carry the cross. The cross life is one of self-surrender.
People who carry the cross are willing to let Jesus define their identity. They lose their lives for the sake of Jesus, and end up experiencing the life they’ve always wanted.
(3) Follow Jesus. They learn from Jesus what is God’s will and how to do it.
Parables about the Cost
Jesus told two parables that invite all would-be followers of his to calculate the cost of accepting his call to discipleship.
He said, “For 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?
“Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?
“If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace” (Luke 14.28-32).
When I was an elementary age child, I wanted a guitar for Christmas. Elvis was popular and in my childish mind I thought I could sound like him. He made playing the guitar look so easy.
On Christmas day, I picked up my plastic guitar that was made for children, strummed my fingers across the strings and didn’t sound anything like Elvis – or even music for that matter.
That was the end of my guitar career. I only wanted to sound like Elvis; I didn’t want to learn chords, tuning, rhythm and other basic guitar skills.
Living like Jesus may look attractive, but Jesus wants all of us to know there is work to be done, if we are going to have lives like his.
The three elements of self-denial, cross-bearing and following him are not natural and they are not easy. The parable of the Tower Builder informs us that work and discipline is involved.
The Cost of Non-Discipleship
One of the classic lines of Dallas Willard is, “The cost of discipleship is great, but the cost of non-discipleship is even greater.”
The parable of the Warring King reminds potential followers of Jesus that if they chose to turn away from him in rebellion, that they will not fare well. They will be like a king who goes to battle with a superior force.
One of my friends played the guard position for his high school football team in California. He weighed 180 pounds on a good day. They played the team that won the state championship that year.
Every lineman on the opposing team was strong and weighted 100 pounds more than the heaviest player on his team. My friend’s team never stood a chance and were grateful for the clock to signal the end of the fourth quarter.
The parable of the Warring King is a warning to everyone who thinks they can stand before God and deny his demand on their lives. Their position is the biggest “no win” situation of all time.
Finances and Romances – Again
Jesus’ words began with a serious message about relationships. We must be committed to Jesus above all relationships. That is a hard message, but history has demonstrated its validity.
Now, to finances. Jesus ended his teaching by talking about possessions.
He said, “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (Luke 14.33).
Both the message to “hate” family members (verse 26) and to “give up all your possessions” (verse 33) are exaggerations meant to confront and challenge Jesus’ audience.
At no time did Jesus advocate hate, but he always drew the line to where our loyalties lie. Jesus-followers will always follow his attitudes and actions in the face of opposition, even by the people closest to us.
There is only one occasion when Jesus told someone to sell all he owned, to give it to the poor, and to follow him (Matthew 19.16-22). However, his consistent message to all of his followers was that money was never to be their master.
He said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6.24).
In the parable of the Sower he showed how the desire for money can choke out his work in our lives. He said, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing” (Matthew 13.22).
Application of the Parables
Frank Laubach said of his relationship with Jesus, “This is the most difficult thing I do, but it makes everything else easier.”
To deny our self-centered wishes, to live in a self-giving relationship with Jesus, and to always go where Jesus is headed is difficult. But it will make all of life easier.
** About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.