I‘ve written about this before, but after reading a great little article from Andy Crouch it’s burning in my heart again: Discipleship to Jesus is the best deal we’re ever going to get as human beings. It is an amazing bargain that any sober-minded shopper would jump at. It should feel to good to be true. Being with Jesus to learn from him how to be like him is the most remarkable opportunity ever offered to the human race.
Crouch’s article is about Jesus’ stories in Luke 14 about a tower builder and an embattled king. He points out that in most English Bibles, this section is labelled “The Cost of Discipleship,” but, he says, “Jesus’ first hearers would have known that label was exactly backwards. For these stories are not about disciples, but fools.”
The tower builder doesn’t have enough money to finish his project. The king doesn’t have enough troops to win the battle. These aren’t models of discipleship, they’re models of non-discipleship. They are pictures of people trying to gain security through their own resources and strength, ambitiously trying to build monuments to their own ingenuity and ability. It’s a picture of people trying to get well-liked enough or rich enough or powerful enough to secure a place for themselves. It’s the tower of Babel all over again.
In other words, Jesus is saying, “Stop your foolish pursuit of security and reputation before you go spiritually bankrupt! Can’t you see you’ll never be able to complete your project? You’re throwing your life away on a pipe dream that you’ll never be able to pay for. Give up the foolishness, and come follow me instead.”
Which is exactly the same point Jesus is making when he says, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their life?” The life you “give up” to follow Jesus is a ill-fated tower-building project that won’t work out anyway. It’s much more costly to keep on trying to finish your tower, because in the end you’ll fail, you’ll forfeit your life for a half-baked tower.
At our missional community gathering this past Sunday someone paraphrased Dallas Willard: “If you think it’s hard being a disciple of Christ, you should try living the other way.” This is exactly what Jesus was saying in these stories: living to make a name for yourself or secure your own future is way too expensive. Stop now before you ruin yourself utterly. Jesus was talking in these stories about the cost of non-discipleship, and it’s breathtakingly high.
In contrast, living as a disciple of Jesus means that you begin to understand what living really is. You “find your life,” as Jesus tells us. Another Willard quote gives us a picture of what we gain as disciples of Jesus:
“What an astonishing vision! The water of heaven flows through our being until we are fully changed people. We wake each morning breathing the air of this new world; we experience a new consciousness, and our character is transformed. We drop our deceitful practices, our insincerity, our defensiveness, our envy, and our slander, and we move outward toward others in genuine love.”
It isn’t “costly” to obtain this kind of life, you simply give up the old life and receive the new one as a gift. Those who engage in it aren’t spiritual heroes, they’re just responding to the deal of a lifetime. It’s the treasure in the field. Of course you sell everything to buy the field. There’s a treasure in it!