Lesson Ten – Counting the Cost

Counting the Cost

Lesson Aim:  To show how the personal cost of being a child of God demands disciplinary training and the relinquishing of our world identity and title claims.

Scripture:  Luke 14:25-35.

Historical analysis for reading these three parables.

Place:  On the road somewhere between Galilee and the Jerusalem area.  Luke 9:51; 19:1.

Occasion:  Jesus probably knew many of the large number of people who were enduring great tribulations to follow Him were Number Two soil (Luke 8:13).  They were having a good time listening to His teaching about life in God’s kingdom; however, Jesus wanted them to understand it is “easier said than done.”  It would demand a great testing of their faith to reconstruct their lives from where they were to becoming Number Four soil (Luke 8:15).

Time:  Perhaps sometime within the last year of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

Audience:  Great multitudes, Luke 14:25.

Aim:  To move people who appreciate the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of God to count the cost of becoming Number Four soil.  Jesus taught that anything less will be a waste of time; therefore, people might as well “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”  Heb. 11:25.  If they planned on being Number Three soil they would be better off to remain in the world (Luke 8:14).  It would be better for people to abandon war if we cannot win with what we are willing to invest from our personal endowments.


When a person from the world realm enters God’s kingdom he or she has many adjustments to make.  Most of these adjustments will be changes in our attitudes toward God, other people, and our “self.”  The fact that God is spirit means Christians must adopt a spiritual, or theist, world view.  We re-evaluate our position and possessions.  We struggle to identify our “self” without position or possessions.  Jesus taught the right attitude in His parable about a rich fool.  See Luke 12:13-23.

Unless we identify with God as spirit and His spiritual kingdom, we are vulnerable to an attack from the devil.  Greed will be the way he will take us captive.  Physical wealth and greed for more wealth creates idolaters (Col. 3:5).  The rich fool had to die to learn this very important lesson.  He identified with the physical world and lost his soul.  He should have identified with the spiritual also.  Physical death will reveal many lessons Jesus wants people to learn while we are living (Matt. 10:28).

The previous nine lessons in Part III of the Parables of Jesus have been presented to help Christians adjust our attitudes toward God, man and “self.”  A review of these lessons will help us understand the lesson Jesus taught in this parable because each of the lessons demand that we count the cost of changing our attitudes.  A brief review of each lesson from the standpoint of our text will be the manner in which this lesson will be presented.


The aim of Lesson One in Part III was to show how we have identified with true life when we see our “self” separate from our world positions and possessions.  No one will deny the importance of identity; however, the question is, with what, or with whom, have we identified?  All mature people have either identified with God and the spiritual realm, or the world culture and the physical realm.  Some of us may be struggling to identify with both (I Cor. 3:1).  Before Jesus gave His parable about counting the cost of discipleship He struck down the possibility of adopting double identities for those who desire to be His disciples.  He, no doubt, got the attention of the multitude when said:

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Luke 14:26  

Even today, the strong language in this Scripture still catches our attention.  The English word “hate” is translated from the Greek word “misei” and it describes “malicious and unjustifiable feelings toward others.”  This is what Jesus meant when He told the Twelve, “and you will be hated by all on account of My name.”  Matt. 10:22.   However, the first rule for understanding the meaning of a word in a sentence is to accept the fact that “it means what the person using the word meant for it to mean.”  Jesus used the same Greek word, misei, for “hate” when He said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.”  Matt. 6:24.  The subject here is about people devoting our lives to service, either for God or material things.  The meaning of the word “hate” in this context and Luke 14:26 is “relative preference” and not “malicious and unjustifiable feelings,” as Jesus used the word in Matthew 10:22.

We know our spirits came from God and we will return to God.  Our bodies materialized via our parents (Eccl. 12:7).  Since our spirits are eternal our “relative preference” is to serve God more than our parents.  This does not mean we do not serve our physical families.  See I Tim. 5:8.  The cost of adopting our spiritual identity is high because of our early years of dependency on our parents.  We should count the cost before we begin to re-identify because, if we should get “stuck in the middle” we will have a confused Christian allegiance – a problem for many of us.  This will be detrimental to our sanctification (I Pet. 1:13).

Jesus presented another challenge to the multitude before He told the parable emphasizing our need for counting the cost when contemplating a major battle in our lives.  He said:

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  Luke 14:27.   

The modern term for “carrying our own cross” is to be “proactive.”  This means we take responsibility for our own decisions.  When we claim maturity we are no longer a disciple of our parents and the culture in which we were reared.   Since “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” we choose to live our lives according to the law of life revealed and taught by Jesus (Gal. 5:1; 13-14; Rom. 8:1, 2).  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we take responsibility for our choices but at the same time we must “count” and accept the cost of the consequences of our choices.    Joseph, the son of Jacob by Rachel, is an example of a proactive young man who chose to flee the immoral advances of Potiphar’s wife based on his paradigm of God’s moral principles (Gen. 39:1-20).  The consequence of his choice was “time in prison.”  Please note how he did not base his decision on the consequence or the counsel of others.  He “carried his own cross,” he made his choice based on his faith in the moral principles of God.

The Good Samaritan in Lesson Two was Jesus’ example of a person who carried his own cross.  He had compassion and he chose to act on this inner quality of his character rather than follow the examples of the priest and the Levite.  They were authority figures for moral behavior; however, the man from Samaria did not let them write the script for his life.  He did not dance to the world’s music as so many people try to do (Rom. 12:2).  He took up his cross and became a neighbor to the man who had been robbed.  Obviously, he had counted the cost of having a compassionate heart before he had this encounter on the road to Jericho.  He was willing to pay the price.  In this case it cost him some time and money.  He paid the price and qualified himself to be identified as a neighbor by Jesus’ definition of “who is my neighbor.”  The Law of Moses commanded people to love their neighbor as themselves.  Jesus said we must fulfill the Law to be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:17-20; Rom. 13:8; Matt. 22:37-40).  Christians have been freed from the Law in order to fulfill it (Rom. 7:1-4; 8:1-4).

We learned the importance of forgiveness in Lesson Three.  One goal of Christians is to stimulate more love (agape) in the world.  It is evident this is the need of the hour.  Jesus gave us the formula for inspiring people to love.

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.  Luke 7:47

The attitude that stimulates love is forgiveness.  God forgave us when we were unable to love (agape).  See Rom. 5:6-8.  Jesus’ love should empower Christians to love by forgiving others and thus, stimulating love where it does not exist.  The cost for Christians is that we must make the first investment by forgiving others (Matt. 5:23, 24).  The person we forgive may not respond with love (I Pet. 3:15, 16).  Evangelists preach the message of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ to sinners who do not have the capacity to love their enemies.  Christians who possess love (agape) will evangelize (Matt. 5:43-48).

The aim in Lesson Four was to show how we must achieve and be socially accepted in a seat of honor before we will have the glory that will satisfy our inherent need for glory.  Honor means “being of value,” thus we are valuable to God, others and ourselves.  God designed mankind with both an inherent need for “a seat of honor” and the social acceptance of “significant others” in our achievement of the seat.  When we enter a program in which both of these needs are satisfied we also have satisfaction for our inherent need for glory.  Jesus taught us how to attain a seat of honor and acceptance by others in a manner that will give us satisfaction for these two needs and consequently, satisfy the higher need God put in us for glory (I Cor. 2:7).  The total scenario set forth by Jesus in the following Scripture will satisfy our need for glory.

But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher;” then you will have honor (Greek – doxa) in the sight of all who are at the table with you.  Luke 14:10

The point to remember is, to attain glory that satisfies, we must have the acceptance of others in the position we have achieved.  Their acceptance can only be rightfully attained by serving mankind.  This is the cost we must contemplate.  Christians humble ourselves to a life of service to attain honor (Rom. 6:12, 13).  All people have been created with a need for glory but all are not willing to abide by Jesus’ law of life to get satisfaction for this powerful drive; therefore, most of mankind’s strife with his fellowman can be traced to their use of other ways to get glory.  They are not willing to pay the price; however, they unwittingly engage themselves with the people in the world’s battle for glory.

Faithful Christians have counted the cost of serving others to attain a “seat of honor;” consequently, we will have more power and opportunity to serve those who put us in the seat.  All of our roles, such as our membership in the church, home and community, identify with this “seat of honor.”  With the introduction of our service to others, we have moved to Lesson Five, entitled, “God’s Children are Servants.”

We learned how to accept the role of a servant and the principle; “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”  The proper attitude is that God is sovereign.  It is His world, created to fulfill His plan.  Christians understand God’s purpose is sonship for us; therefore, we are willing to fulfill the role of a servant now and patiently wait until our adoption is finalized at Judgment (Heb. 10:35, 36).  This will give us the honor a servant desires in time and glory with God in eternity – even presently in some cases.  We will not be envious when God blesses others because we know He will not exhaust His supply.  We realize He does this for their special needs.  We know everything is God’s to do with as He pleases.  We know He will not victimize anyone.  Since the world culture uses seniority, age, race, personal ability and other types of measurement for rewarding servants, those who desire to be God’s children should count the cost of accepting the following declaration before they seek to be transferred to God’s kingdom (Col. 1:13, 14).

Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with what is My own?  Or is your eye envious because I am generous?  Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.  Matt. 20:15, 16

From Lesson Six we understand Christians are a special kind of servant.  We are adopted sons and daughters who have come out of the world culture to serve our Father (II Cor. 6:16-18).  Therefore, we take responsibility as a steward over God’s things on earth.  Our stewardship is that God lets us use His world to secure our future by serving others.  The proper attitude toward the world is that it is doomed.  God subjected it to decay when Adam and Eve became covenant breakers (Rom. 8:18-25).  Therefore, we will use God’s world to secure our future in our own eternal house (Luke 16:12; John 14:1-3).  We will not attach ourselves to the physical world for it is virtually a “house waiting to burn.”  See II Pet. 3:8-13.  For most people the cost of accepting the reality of this parable by faith is more than they want to pay.  Many others have accepted the terms set forth in this parable but, like the Hebrew Christians, they have become impatient and they are in danger of throwing away their confidence (Heb. 12:5).

And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.  Luke 16:9

What is the cost for adopting the attitude of “I will never ever give up?”  Jesus died on the cross rather than give up His mission, even after He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”  Matt. 26:39.  The Apostle Paul said, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”  Phil. 3:8.  Job’s wife advised him to “curse God and die.”  Job 2:9.  We understood from our study in Lesson Seven we do have a choice.  Mankind is the only being created by God with the God-given right of full intelligent choice.  We are responsible for our choices.  We can give up, or as Jesus advised, we can pray (Luke 18:1).

God has, can and may over ride the laws of nature.  We know He will hear our plea “if we ask according to His will.”  I John 5:14.  It is obvious that God does not often change nature, but Jesus assured us our Heavenly Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for His fellowship.  We assume Jesus referred to those who would be cleansed by His blood after He returned to heaven (John 7:37-39).  Jesus cautioned us about deciding to go all the way regardless of cost and then changing our mind in “mid-stream.”  We can understand this principle by applying it to Job, Paul or even Jesus, Himself.  How sad their stories would have been if they had had a change of heart after pursuing their mission for some time.  A faithful Christian in fellowship with the Holy Spirit will have no reason to give up on any worthwhile goal.  We are a winning team by our prayers to our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s fellowship (II Cor. 13:14).

The aim of Lesson Eight is to show how the church should share the concern of the heavenly host for the lost and rejoice with them when a sinner repents.  Even though Christians know God does not want anyone to be lost.  We certainly do not want any to be lost; still the “drumbeat” for evangelism is very low and very slow in many churches.  We really need to analyze our paradoxical reasoning.

Perhaps we have counted the cost and believe it is a losing battle to carry out the commission Jesus gave us to evangelize the world.  Or, even a more serious thought, perhaps, we do not have love (agape).  This quality of love is required, at least to some degree, in our “self” to stay in the battle against Satan and retrieve the lost from his grip.

The problem is not a lack of God’s mammon.  Millions of dollars are given every week in the name of Jesus Christ all over the world.  We have an army of people who identify themselves as preachers – still this potential for evangelism is not focused on the multitudes of prodigals for whom our Heavenly Father and the host of heaven are expectantly waiting to celebrate their return.

Lesson Nine is entitled “A Justified Sinner.”  Christians do not need to count the cost in order to enjoy this doctrine.  It has been offered by God’s grace; however, it did cost our Lord Jesus a horrible death on the cross and several years of training for His priesthood (Heb. 2:14-18).  We walk by faith in the blood of Jesus and God counts us as if we are righteous people (Rom. 3:21-26; I John 1:7).  We do need to have faith and the cost of our faith will be a lifetime of intense Bible study (Rom. 10:17).  The quality of faith we need to activate the doctrine of justification for us is a faith that has been “made complete.”  James 2:20-24.  Our cost for having our faith made complete is what we need to contemplate (James 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3).  Peter likened the process to purifying gold (I Pet. 1:6, 7).

The world people do not appreciate the word “tribulations.”  Presently, our world economy is sustained by science and industry’s effort to minimize tribulations in all aspects of human life.  We now have a “button to push” and a “pill to take” for most of our tribulations.  Should Christians refuse all of these things of the world?  Some religious people try to do so.  Jesus addressed this matter again in our text after He gave His parable.

So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  Therefore, salt is good: but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?  It is useless neither for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out.  ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’  Luke 14:33-35.

We have learned from our studies in Part Three, it is a matter of attitude about things that makes the difference to God.  In view of our studies we understand Jesus meant we should look upon physical things as tools by which we serve both ourselves and mankind for God.  We learned how the things in our possession, that is “our stuff,” belongs to God and we have been privileged to use it to serve Him.  He has not given us “our stuff,” so that we may avoid tribulations because His purpose for creating mankind demands “discipline by tribulation.”  See Heb. 12:4-13.

After admonishing the people to count the cost of being His disciple, Jesus used one word to describe what it presently means for Christians to be His disciple.  We are salt.  It is not a difficult word to understand.  Long before our “information age” people understood the value of salt.  Jesus’ challenge in our text finally comes to the point that, if I desire to be a child of God, I should count the cost of being “salt” the remainder of my life on earth so that I can possess what truly belongs to me in heaven (Luke 16:12).

Questions for Discussion

  1. People who want to be disciples of Jesus will need to make many adjustments in our lives.  List four from this lesson.
  2. How did Jesus mean for the word “hate” to be understood in Luke 14:26?
  3. Explain what Jesus meant by the phrase “carrying his own cross.”  Name an Old Testament figure who demonstrated what Jesus meant.
  4. How was the man from Samaria an example of one who carried his cross?
  5. If there was a situation in a society where love (agape) did not exist, how could this quality of love be stimulated?
  6. What is the difference in the meaning of the words honor and glory?
  7. How does a person’s need for social acceptance work with your answer for question six?
  8. Explain what Jesus was speaking about when He said, “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.”
  9. Before Christians will accept the role of a servant, what must our attitude be toward God?
  10. In what sense are Christians a special kind of servant?
  11. How do Christians view mammon in its relationship to our life after death?
  12. Christians may encounter tribulations that may appear to others to be an overwhelming challenge.  List our two possible choices should we encounter such situations.
  13. God, as well as Christians, do not desire for any person go to hell.  In light of this, why is Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to the world a low priority subject with many members and churches?
  14. In what manner does a Christian encounter the issue of cost in regard to the grace doctrine of justification by faith?
  15. Why did Jesus follow His parable about God’s people counting the cost of being His disciples with His analogy of “salt?”

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