Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 24, 1949
NUMBER 29, PAGE 4-5b

Counting The Cost

Elbridge B. Linn, Denver, Colorado

"Now there went with him great multitudes and he turned and said unto them, If any man cometh after me, and hateth not his own father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish." (Luke 14:25-30.)

Do you think Christ bids any man sit down and count the cost of a Christian life project only that he may renounce it altogether? The great fact which our Lord intended to illustrate in these words is this: Too many people embrace the gospel of Christ from reasons that are not conclusive. When stronger reasons, as they appear to them, arise in their contacts with the world and life, they lightly renounce a belief which they lightly adopted. If people are not earnest when they become Christians, it is no wonder that so many of them go back to their old life. They backslide into their old habits; they forsake spirituality for worldliness; they release their mental hold upon the truths of the gospel of Christ, and once again find themselves embracing the old worldly viewpoints. They leave off building character for eternity.

Indifferent Discipleship

I am deeply concerned when I observe a person, young or old, make confession of Christ, or submit to baptism, or partake of the Lord's Supper, in a manner suggesting indifference, or thoughtlessness, or even flippancy. I fear that such a person has not counted the cost. Consequently, there will be the possibility of an unfinished life-building, and sinners will begin to mock, saying, "He began to build, and was not able to finish."

There are many persons who are not thoughtless about religion; they think a great deal about it. They are not ignorant of Christianity, for they know the outlines of it pretty well. But they have failed to realize one important principle. They know Jesus bore the cross for them, but they seem not to understand that they, too, must bear a cross. They have contemplated with wonder and love the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God, but they have somehow failed to learn that they must likewise offer their own bodies as "living sacrifices" unto God. (Rom. 12:1, 2.) They are ready to follow Christ, they say, but actually they never suspect that the call of Christ demands supreme love for him, self-denial, cross-bearing, and Christ-following.

Our Lord was concerned when he saw the great multitudes following him. He knew the dangers and liabilities of a mob, of mass hysteria. He recognized that of the multitudes seeking him out, many were just along for the trip, or for the excitement of the occasion. Some were expecting miracles; others were contemplating the possibility of a free lunch of fried fish and bread, knowing that he had made such provision before. A few saw in Jesus a leader who might be counted on to furnish the means of throwing off the rule and oppression of Rome. Only a pitiful few saw Jesus in the proper light. These were willing to love him supremely, deny themselves and bear the cross and follow him.

Appealing To Strength

Because Jesus understood the masses, he always challenged them—challenged the best in them. He did not appeal to their softness, but rather to the stern strength of real character. He never made the way too easy. Can one think for a moment that the quality of life set forth in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount is easily attained? When Jesus referred to the law, and then added, "But I say unto you," were his proclamations easier to keep than those of the law of Moses? Moses warned against murder; Jesus condemned I hate. Moses forbade adultery; Jesus condemned lust. Throughout his life and teaching, the Lord appealed to men to follow him, but he invariably pointed out the price they would pay. The fisherman had to forsake the rewards his nets would pay in order to become a fisher of men. Matthew had to leave the lucrative position he held as tax collector. The rich young ruler was told to distribute his wealth among the needy; but he loved his money more than he loved the Lord. So he did not follow Jesus.

Love And Hate

If you would be saved by Christ, in following him, you must love him. He and the Father will not be second; they will have the first of your affections, or they will have none at all Remember what Jesus said about hating—hating father, mother, wife, children, etc. Are we to understand Christ to mean the same thing that one would mean today if he were to say he hated his father? Of course not! Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other," (Matt. 6:24.) The thought here seems to run in this way: if a man is trying to serve two masters, of a necessity he will love one more than the other. When we read, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," the meaning is simple. God loved Jacob and the Israelites more than he loved Esau and the Edomites. This is no arbitrary interpretation of the word "hate," but rather one agreeable to the Hebrew idiom. This is apparent when one reads that: "Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah." When God saw that Leah was "hated," he blessed her with motherhood while Rachel was still childless. And so we find Matthew recording the words of Christ after this manner, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:37.) Christ does not humble natural love; he exalts it. Yet he requires love for him to be greatest of all. Love for Christ does not destroy love for one's relatives. Rather, as love for Christ grows greater, love for one's relatives takes on a deeper significance and a truer meaning.

For failure to count the cost, thousands of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. For failure to count the cost many of the hearers of the Lord Jesus, during his personal ministry, went back and "walked no more with' him." Because they do not count the cost, each year hundreds of professed converts during revivals, go back to the world after a time, and thereby bring reproach on the name of Christ. All of this could be prevented if only people would heed the admonition of Jesus to "count the cost."