Helpful insights (as always) from Joel B. Green on ‘counting the cost’ in Luke 14:25-35. The person building a tower didn’t have enough money to complete it, and the king didn’t have a big enough army to win the war. The point is not that we need to think about how much it will cost us to follow Jesus (although – spoiler alert – it will cost us everything). Rather, the point in both cases is that the person in question simply doesn’t have enough!
Once we realise that we don’t have enough – that our resources are utterly inadequate for establishing our status before God – we need a radically different approach. This involves letting go of everything we have (v. 33), not even depending on our kinship ties (v. 26), and instead surrendering our lives, taking up our cross, and trusting and following Jesus (v. 27).
Here’s Green (NICNT, 566):
What outcomes are proposed if resources prove to be deficient? In both cases, the repercussions are tragic — the one resulting in mockery, the other in surrender; hence, a premium is placed on the inadequacy of one’s resources.
There’s a footnote at this point:
Schmidt (Hostility to Wealth, 150-1) helpfully observes, contra most commentators, that the interpretive crux does not lie in ‘counting the cost.’ The point is that, no matter what calculus one uses, no matter what resources one believes one can bring to bear, those assets will be insufficient to secure one’s status before God. Alternative and decisive action is thus required for everyone.
By extrapolation, then, Jesus insists that such assets as one’s network of kin, so important in Greco-Roman antiquity, are an insufficient foundation for assuring one’s status before God. Dependence on the resources available to a person apart from ‘hating’ family and ‘carrying the cross’ cannot but lead to a tragic outcome. What is required is thoroughgoing fidelity to God’s salvific aim, manifest in one’s identity as a disciple of Jesus.