25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “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.
Family is important. Family in this culture was even more so than it is today. You were your family. So for Jesus to stand up and tell the would-be disciples following Him that they would have to be willing to give up their family ties if they wanted to follow Him was a divisive statement. To turn against your family would be to become a pariah in your hometown.
Christ was stressing the importance of being His disciple, as well as the difficulty. Early Christians would be disowned. Many would have to choose between following Christ’s path and maintaining good familial relationships.
Everything is included here for a reason, and for the early church, Luke’s inclusion of this passage would serve as a reminder and an encouragement to them.
Because though they had given up one family, they had (at least in some cases) gained a larger family. The church in Jerusalem as recorded in the first early chapters of Acts acted as a surrogate family, taking care of those in need and offering strength and encouragement to its members. While that model may not have carried over to all of the churches, there were many who found a new family within the community of Christians.
27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Christ is calling for us to imitate Him. As He gave up everything to come and serve us, so the Christian must not hold onto transitory things. He must focus on what truly matters, the only things that will last: his fellow human beings and the Lord.
The cost is high because we like our stuff. We like our property. We like our money. We like our place in this world (at least some of us do anyway.) We accept the system that the world offers because it’s all we’ve known and we therefore find it natural.
Christ is calling the Christian to turn our backs on that world view, to see the flaws in our accepted culture, and to view our possessions as temporary, because none of these things are permanent. They have the illusion of permanence that we give them. Even our very bodies are temporary. The heart beating, the lungs exchanging oxygen and CO2, the electrical impulses firing off in our brain, these things will all stop one day. So it is that Christ calls His disciples to consider these things, to let go of all of the things we cling to that will fade anyway, and to follow Him in service to others, even to a cross.
We’re called to count the cost, and to have a realistic view of what we’re giving up vs. what we will gain. In light of the temporary nature of the things we cling to versus the permanence of strong relationships and human lives, it should be an easy choice.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
But it’s not. Because it’s easy to forget about the impermanence of things, we’ll go back to trying to hold on to things. We’ll go back to accepting the value our culture places on certain things. And we’ll have to consciously remind ourselves to let go.
And that’s the point of this last warning. It’s a reminder that there will always be the internal temptation to forget, to fall asleep, to accept our old cultural mindset. We have to constantly become aware again of the truth of things, and we have to constantly become aware of what is truly important.