As an elementary-aged child I remember having a very heightened appreciation for money. Countless times I would pull the “M” encyclopedia just to look at all the pictures of the bills greater than $10 (which I rarely saw as a child), historical coins, or currency from around the world. I may not exactly have known the value of a dollar, but I did know that there were few and far between opportunities to have cash on hand to call my own and spend on whatever I would like. I relished each one of these experiences.
On one occasion, I remember walking down the aisles of Walmart with my newly acquired birthday money secured in my blue Mickey Mouse velcro wallet. There was no need to check inside to see how much I had. I had counted the money at least a dozen times in the preceding days. I was so remarkably aware of money at this age, I not only knew that I would be paying the advertised price, but a tax on top of it, which I knew needed to be included in the cost. In my care, I made sure that I calculated all the money I needed for checkout, so I would never have to disappointedly walk an item back to its place on the shelf because I couldn’t afford it.
At the end of Luke 14, Jesus asks the large crowd to consider the cost of being a disciple. A faithful following was created by his miracles and teachings, but not all of them grasped the significance of what he was truly saying. Undoubtedly to the surprise of many standing there, Jesus makes the most radical declaration in verse 26 when he states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” I’m sure these words were followed by disapproval, murmurs, and shock.
Excuse me – HATE? HATE my father and mother who I am to honor by God’s command? HATE my wife, who is to be called “blessed” and is my flesh? HATE my children who are my wealth and fortune? HATE my brothers and sisters with whom I share the same faith? HATE my very own body which should be treated as a temple?
It is alluded to us a few verses later that Jesus is not literally saying that we should hate the aforementioned family. Also, I don’t think that he is even saying that we should abhor them by comparison of love we have for him and His Father (this conclusion I come to by considering how God loves me as His own – I love others as children of God – the child of God = Jesus). What Jesus is acknowledging is we must count the cost of following him. We must be ready to account for every treasure, relationship, and ambition, and when it comes times to pick up our cross and drag it an uncomfortable direction, we are ready to abandon, sacrifice, drop, or pay up anything that isn’t the pursuit of him. We open up our metaphorical velcro wallets, know the price – tax included – and hand over what has become so precious to us. If we don’t – our fate will be much like the rich young ruler (Luke 18). We look at the price, and not having glanced into our wallet for a time, simply think we have what it takes to afford our desire; however, we realize there is just a bit more that is taxed of us, so we walk away disappointed, knowing we can no longer afford our great treasure because we did not take it all into account.
So how much does the Kingdom of God cost? Everything. How much is it worth? So much more. Don’t be turned away in disappointment, but take stock and be ready by counting the cost.