September 15, 2019

Teaching One Another: Luke 14:25-33

Teaching One Another
Luke 14:25-33

We haven’t done this for awhile, and Sunday to come presents a good opportunity for me to revive the “Teaching One Another” category.

I’ll be preaching in my congregation, and as we traditionally do in the Lutheran church, my focus will be upon the Gospel text. And what a text we have! It’s a doozy, so I thought I’d get some thoughts from the iMonk community to help me prepare, and then you will get to see the fruits of our labors together on Monday.

This text falls squarely into the category of one of Jesus’ “hard sayings.” In particular, the beginning of what Jesus says here and then his concluding statement are what make this passage daunting to understand and to preach.

So, give me a hand with this, ok? Let’s try to teach one another today about Jesus’ challenging words in this Sunday’s Gospel.

Jesus discourses with his disciples. Tissot

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. 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. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Luke 14:25-33

Comments

  1. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” To me it means that Jesus reveals He is God as only He can make such a statement. It must seem that in comparison we ‘hate’ father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, even life itself, because we’re to love Him more! Be willing to count the cost of what it means to love Him more. And yet, we’re to love our enemies! Looking forward to read other comments.

  2. Priorities, it’s about priorities

  3. These are hard words not just for those who support “family values” and love capitalism. I would wager there are not many commenting today who would sacrifice any significant relationship to follow Jesus, nor give up many of their possessions to do it either (and don’t we regard our significant relationships as especially valuable possessions?). Let’s not kid ourselves that we are somehow in a better position vis-a-vis Jesus’ commands and warnings here just because we may have somehow convinced ourselves that we spiritually or psychologically hold more lightly to these things than our neighbor or our enemy does; Jesus is telling us to put our money where our mouth is, and who among us has done that?

    • Yes, it is ironic that there are whole ‘ministries’ devoted to family and money, things Jesus said were not to be our primary concern. One of the complaints Romans made against Christianity was about how destructive it was to Roman families and ‘family values’. It’s almost as if we’re talking about a different religion.

  4. Andrew Zook says

    Here are some really off-the-cuff, random thoughts spurred by the passage; each one could be different trails you might go down.
    1. Perseverance. The builder, in order to finish, has to have all the materials and labor… if he runs out of something (like funds) then the project falters. We’ve all seen the house where a project has visually faltered… haven’t we? Someone didn’t count the full cost – it got started but couldn’t be finished. (Or an unforeseen circumstance came along and derailed the progress)

    2. Jesus is talking about “having the right attitude”… one of our favorite cop-outs imo. The final line, “…give up all your possessions” may have some kind of metaphorical ring, but I don’t think it can be all abstracted away…. yeah, it’s a hard saying, especially to US, the keepers/worshippers of private (MY) property.

    3. Yeah, these teachings of Jesus are especially hard (maybe impossible) if we just do it alone, like our culture often tells us we must…”you Have to do it on our own; it’s the only way” But wait, what if more than one person in a congregation takes up the vision to fulfill Christ’s call regarding some of these hard teachings? Well, then it get’s a little easier, doesn’t it?

  5. In a patriarchal society, one’s place and status was everything.
    In a pre-social safety net society, if you had no money or possessions, you were helpless.
    In Roman lands, when you were carrying a cross, you were marching to your death.

    Without a family identity, you were nothing.
    Without money or possessions, you were nothing.
    If you were carrying a cross, you were condemned to die.

    Jesus was telling them to give up *everything* and die.

    Why?

    Because He has more to give in exchange.

    When told His mother and brothers wanted to see Him, He replied that His disciples were His family. If the Church *is* the Church, it should treat us like family – like Jesus described a family. Like a father who, seeing the prodigal son coming a long way off, *runs* to meet him (patriarchs NEVER ran – too undignified).

    When asked about wealth, He replied that it should be given to the poor, that we should be content with daily bread, and that God would provide. Then, as now, many considered wealth proof of God’s approval, and Jesus would have none of it.

    When asked about life, Jesus talked of death and resurrection. Our lives are short, and must end. Jesus counseled His hearers to lay up treasures for the life to come, not grab all they could in this life.

    What Jesus was saying, I think, is that the way of life He calls us too is at odds with almost every aspect of how we humans have set things up over time. And we do others, and ourselves, a disservice when we try to make what He’s teaching less radical.

    We NEED hard sayings like this, to test ourselves and see where we stand in comparison to where He wants us to be. And to ask ourselves if we’re willing to take a few more steps closer to that ideal.

  6. Susan Dumbrell says

    I ask you all to pray for the north of New South Wales and nearby Queensland in Australia as we experience out of control fires..
    Properties lost and some fire fighters injured.
    I grew up in northern NSW so I feel for them immensely.

    –unimaginable so early in the season. We had a frost yesterday!! Snow forecast here for tomorrow. WHAT!!
    We have had no rain in many months .Local Towns are shipping in water just for household drinking. Breeding Stock is being slaughtered through lack of feed and water. Imagine this monetary loss to farmers and our community finances.
    These guys are my friends with whom I worship each Sunday

    To whom do we turn. Some would say prayer. I am confused.

    Chaplain Mike, Tell me where our prayer should be focused please?

    Susan

  7. In that society your family was your status, your identity, Jesus is saying we have to give that up. We have a new identity with him. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions in order to follow him. What will we give up? Are we willing to forsake what’s most important in our life to keep following Jesus? These are questions that we need to keep praying about. Keep asking the Lord to help us through them to show us the way. And our God who is gracious and kind will provide for us, in ways that are often surprising.

  8. Iain Lovejoy says

    My favourite religious writer at the moment is George MacDonald (his “Unspoken Sermons” are available on line at Project Gutenberg if anyone’s interested). He wrote about Jesus’s similar command to the “rich young man” to sell all he had and follow Jesus. His point in that story was that this was not a “hard saying” or a challenge or a commandment but a *reward*. What Jesus was offering the rich young man was the same deal that Peter and James and John and the other apostles got – the chance to join Jesus on the road and receive instruction from him. The rich young man had lived a conventionally pious life, kept the law as best he could and earnestly sought God, and Jesus saw sonthing in him, so was giving him the chance to “go to the next level” becoming an apostle of Christ and enter into eternal life. Unlike Peter and James and John, because he was a rich and powerful man he could not bear to leave his old life behind and join Jesus and so declined.
    MacDonald’s point is that this injunction in this passage to “sell all you have and follow me” is not a general command to everyone but a specific offer to the rich young man. Jesus doesn’t want us all to give up all we have because most of us are not worthy to have such an offer made: we are suitable only for muddling through in our existing lives as best we can until the time, if ever, we are ready and are called to follow him as his disciple on the road. We may rest assured we can keep our possessions, homes, family or lives because Jesus doesn’t want them or us.
    I think the sayings above must be taken the same way: it is only if we are counted worthy, and needed, and called – like the rich young man – that we get the chance to abandon everything to follow Jesus to the cross.

    • But in this passage, Jesus was not calling any one person, let alone a rich young ruler, to abandon all and follow Him. These remarks were addressed to the crowds – IOW, to EVERYONE who was following Him around. That makes this call much more general than the one addressed to the rich young ruler.

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        It is addressed to “whoever comes to me” – unless you tie yourself in knots trying to make it say less than it actually says, it can only refer to those who literally followed Jesus on the road. The context is Jesus as a peripatetic teacher arriving at a town, preaching, and then leaving with more disciples in tow. I think the point is that those leaving with him aren’t coming back, in contrast to the case with the many other peripatetic rabbinic teachers of the time, whom you would follow as a sort of adventure holiday learning Torah, and then return home to resume your normal life.

        • Dave Greene says

          That is an interesting perspective on the rich young ruler, Ian, and I tend to agree. Jesus also addressed one particular man, a Pharisee, about being born again; and one particular woman about the living water. He deals with each of us at our point of need yet each of these three stories has something for all of us too, they are both particular and universal in some mysterious way I think.

        • I actually hope yours is the correct interpretation, otherwise the text lays a burden on everyone that most of us cannot bear, one that would crush us.

          • Iain Lovejoy says

            It is still a hard saying. It is in a way the mirror of the parable of the talents – we are the servant who lacks the confidence and ability to take talents of gold and make three more or five more. We are the ones whose role is to play it safe and put our little gold talent at the bankers and plod away making our little contribution while others are called to be the Peters, Jameses and Johns of this world. Perhaps the point of the sayings for us is that we need the humility to know what we can and cannot do, and adjust our sights accordingly.

  9. When I was in seminary I wrote my master’s thesis (222 pages, plus 38 pages of bibliography) on Jesus’ hard sayings (e.g. ‘take up your cross’), including this one. It is part of his overall message about the Kingdom and what is required to enter it. The key requirement in Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom is repentance (it is interesting that he says very little about ‘faith’ and certainly not as a requirement to enter the Kingdom). However, repentance, to Jesus’ first-century audience, was not a ‘change of heart’ or ‘change of mind’, or even ‘turning from sin’. After reading many ancient Jewish documents and tracing the idea from the Old Testament prophets (who see repentance as a ‘return’ to the covenant) through the intertestamental period (where it begins to take on the idea of changing one’s loyalties) to contemporary (1st BC to 2nd AD period, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and ‘Joseph and Aseneth’) and then early rabbinic writings, I concluded that repentance to Jesus’ audience was a call to change one’s allegiances.

    The Kingdom of God is here and one’s old allegiances – to family, culture, Israel, and even Torah – no longer suffice. Jesus calls for a new allegiance – to himself and God’s Kingdom, and all other allegiances become secondary, or in some cases, must be abandoned. God is doing something new and the old is no longer good enough (Jesus’ primary conflict with the Pharisees wasn’t about works vs faith – something we never find in the gospels, but about eschatology – God is bringing a new covenant and the Pharisees are stuck in the old one.) A good example is the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ (Luke 18; Matt 19). He has heard Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom and comes asking what he must do. Jesus sets up the challenge by pointing to the old allegiances – Israel, Torah, etc. Note that the man never claims to have perfectly kept the Law (no ancient Jewish author ever says God requires perfect obedience to Torah, except perhaps 4 Ezra, including Paul). He says he has lived as a faithful covenant-keeping Jew but Jesus seems to be saying that isn’t enough. So the man says ‘what else must I do?’ (Matthew’s version). Jesus responds that he must sell all and follow him. We usually miss the point – the call is NOT to sell all, but to follow Jesus. But, for this man, he must sell all in order to follow Jesus because his allegiance must be to Jesus and that will be impossible for him with his wealth and status. Jesus is calling for total allegiance to himself, and it is part of this new thing God is doing – establishing the Kingdom of God.

    For some it will mean leaving family (and it did for some in the first century), for others it will mean leaving behind wealth and status (as it sometimes still does today), and for others (especially in the first 3 centuries) it will mean a literal cross. But allegiance to Jesus is the demand and the requirement to enter the Kingdom in Jesus’ teaching. (Paul will later contextualize this somewhat for his Greco-Roman audience, but the requirement is really the same – loyalty or faithfulness.)

    • My sense is Greg is on the right track – that the focus on the Kingdom is important here even though it is not explicitly called out in this text. The preceding parable of the dinner party (Luke 14:15-24) is all about the generosity of the party giver who has invited people before the party is prepared. When the dinner is ready those who have previously been invited are told to come, but their immediate material needs and concerns are the things that keep them from attending. And so those who were least or uninvited initially are brought to the table.
      Discipleship in the reading for the day can’t be understood outside that context, since discipleship means cutting loose those immediate concerns in order to be open to the imminent but uncertain announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The builder will conserve what he has for another project for fear of ridicule; the king will conserve his army for fear of defeat – better to lose a little and retain some, than to lose all. Jesus up ends that in his demand that the Kingdom be the goal. In order to understand the value gained by discipleship, then, we need to understand the promise of the Kingdom of God. Allegiance is not blindly asked for after all.

    • Yes, I think this is it, or at least most of it. We are to set aside allegiance to anything and any power structure other than Jesus and the kingdom he is declaring.

      A rich young ruler would have enormous ties to and status in the power systems of this world. But he is not the only one. We all have those to some extent or another, and too often they command our allegiance. Jesus says we can’t give it and still claim to follow him. This is consistent with the overall message of scripture. And boy is it hard sometimes.

      Also, for me, I think it explains why I react pretty strongly when I see the church itself align itself with worldly powers. How are laypeople supposed to try to live out Jesus’ message when most of those around them and in positions of authority in the church are doing the very thing that subverts that?

    • Greg’s background study rings true, along with Eeyore’s take.

      I don’t see this pericope linked to the banquet one preceding it, but rather to the bit that immediately follows:

      34 “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

      The Disciples are the Salt of the world, and the Kingdom of God is being made manifest in Christ. Spreading that saltiness and being emissaries of the Kingdom requires this changing of allegiances – in such a radical way that anything else but trusting loyalty to Jesus himself isn’t worth much more than dung, comparatively speaking. Jesus does sometimes say things that are rather shocking… Family, resources and life are all good things, but in comparison to the Pearl of Great Price they fade.

      Of course this is a hard saying; we each of us like our comforts, whatever they may be, and we are afraid of what radical allegiance to Christ may entail.

      Dana

  10. Burro (Mule) says

    “Mule, there are some things you don’t understand about the poor. Everything you Republicans say about them has some basis in fact; they don’t plan well, they have a hard time postponing any pleasure, they’re shiftless, they don’t keep their word, they’re sexually undisciplined, all of that. The funny thing though, is that it seems to me God prefers them not in spite of all that but because of all that.

    We like to run around pretending everyone is capable but the raw truth is that some people are better at life than others. We should strive to be like them, but let’s not kid ourselves. There is something about the poor, their recklessness, their hang-it-all-let-the-devil-take-the-stragglers attitude that seems to please God. I think they’re more open to what the Universe has in store for them than we are.

    You Orthodox have monks that are supposed to have surrendered everything, but even a monk usually knows where his next meal is coming from. The people I work with don’t have that luxury. They like to think it’s their cunning, their trickery, their manipulation that gains them their resources, but deep inside they know it’s the Providence of God. Oh, they aren’t saints. They’ll call it luck, or karma, or fate, or “the cards”, but when I call them out on it and tell them they’re God’s people, they usually respond positively to that.”

  11. This is one of those “hard” sayings that if it came out of the mouth of anyone else we would dismiss it immediately as lunacy. And maybe call the cops. At the very least there would be talk of cults and cultish behavior.

    This is a demand for total commitment. A break in the order of things. A before and an after. All or nothing. Choose!

    If I’m honest (and I am occasionally) what I really want is for my “spirituality” to be around to sanctify all the other stuff I really care about.

    • –> “This is one of those “hard” sayings that if it came out of the mouth of anyone else we would dismiss it immediately as lunacy. And maybe call the cops. At the very least there would be talk of cults and cultish behavior.”

      Very true. So what is it about Jesus that these folks–and us folks–don’t consider these words “lunacy”? What is it about him that makes us even consider that these sound-bites are “wisdom” and not foolishness?

  12. Jesus is using over the top language and metaphor to impress upon his followers to examine the cost that will occur if they decide to follow him. He wanted to thin the ranks of the shallow followers who might think of him as the ;political and military answer to their plight. Jesus is also setting a standard, a requirement that we as humans cannot possibly meet as the followers of the law , the convent were finding out. We are human , Jesus came as human knowing his life, as a man would end with no earthly treasures, no riches, no earthly glory and he acted in complete faith and obeisance as he was Emmanuel.
    So this is about priorities for the first followers explicitly , who were the first to step forward before the confirmation of the work of the cross, their leap of faith is different than what we face on this side of the cross. We can never be poor enough, rich enough, keeping the law enough, being non observant of the law enough, be non selfish enough, be hard working enough to earn salvation or do we need to be. No person can meet the challenge that Jesus laid out in Luke. That is why the totality of the Bible and the message of the Bible is so important. One thing I think most here would agree on is the Bible is all about Jesus, the Gospel message and it is a book of love.
    That is why good men of faith try to lead in the right direction. Jesus gave all he could, which was his life, so we do not have too. Good sermon I am sure Chaplin Mike.

  13. senecagriggs says

    Jesus shaped spirituality?

  14. This discipleship thing is a marathon, of which I’m the worst. He tells us to be perfect. Therefore, I always fall back to resting in Jesus. Matthew 11:28-29. He is for us. Never forget that.

    • Amen.

      It’s like how I now view the whole rich young ruler thing. When did Jesus ever demand perfection BEFORE following him? Never. So I see the real point being, if you’re going to make it all about what you have to DO in order to enter the Kingdom, he’ll raise that bar so high you won’t be able to attain it. (Thus, the rich young ruler went away sad.)

      He is the author and perfecter, not anything we do.

      That said, the text here suggests something unique. Part of it to me says, “Think before you follow, for following is costly.” Quite the odd statement from someone who throughout the gospels seems to reward faith over “thinking and considering.” But rather than being a “do THIS or else you can’t follow me” command, I see it more as a “be prepared to have to shed stuff that might be important to you: family (which was BIG back in the day) and possessions (which is BIG to us Americans today).”

      But this text is indeed unique. It really seems to say “consider what your faith may cost” over the simple “follow me” kinda faith we see through most of the gospels.

      • Good point, Rick. I think when we realize that Jesus is our Creator, we can trust that He knows better than we do about what’s best for us. Jesus has many hard sayings. But where else can we go? He is working in us to bring about His purpose. It’s always a matter of trust.

        I know this is probably too simple.

  15. I’m NOT saying that Jesus was not speaking to every age because his words forever echo through all time. With that in mind, he could have phrased it exactly the same today I grant you, he was speaking to an Old Testament audience. He was literally the entrance of the New Testament. The new word of God in human skin. Much of what he said and did (cursing the fig tree) still smacked of the harsh and brutal Old Testament ethos. The phrasing might change today but the necessity of escorting one’s soul into an unfettered state before the Lord is not changed one iota. Each one is required to independently present themselves at the table of life with all its bitter iniquities as well as its joys. Anything that gets in the way of that absolutely has a withering, decaying effect.

  16. Dave Greene says

    ‘I see it more as a “be prepared to have to shed stuff that might be important to you…”‘

    Yes,and I would like to propose flipping the idea of possessions from “what I possess” to “what possesses me” as a good way to look at this. Elsewhere Jesus said that the one who possessed two tunics should give away only one – not all, some possessions are needed. And today in America I need a car to work so I can provide and give. But if the third car in my driveway is my lovingly restored 1965 Mustang 2+2 Fastback that I spend hours waxing, polishing, and maintaining then maybe I need to ask the Lord about that and be prepared to part with it.

    Were I to actually give away all then I would be a burden to the kingdom and unable to contribute. Paul in several places exhorts us to be wise in our love and our service, to keep working where we are unless God calls us to something else – we need some possessions to accomplish this. Yet there is much that can be shed by many of us. Frankly, I struggle with that sometimes – the words of Jesus are hard words.