Counting the cost

Everything comes with a cost.

Many items cost money. From a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, to a new house and a used car, necessities and luxuries cost money.

But there are less tangible items which also come with costs.

Time is precious. We have a limited and unknown amount of time on this earth. We can spend time, but we cannot buy or make more of it. Every moment we spend doing one thing is a moment we cannot spend doing another. Every thought directed toward ourselves is one not aimed at another.

Opportunities are also limited and precious. When we choose one option over another, the benefits of the foregone option are lost to us. The ability to help another may not come around again.

We may find hidden costs. That which is cheap may need to be repaired or replaced far earlier than a more expensive alternative. Operating costs may be higher than we originally planned.

If we make poor decisions which cost us money or time, we need to reevaluate that choice. The temptation to say, “I can’t turn back or give this up, because I’ve spent too much” is known as the sunk cost fallacy. If we have made poor choices, we should correct course and chalk up our losses as the cost of learning.

Jesus taught often of understanding costs. He taught his followers that the cost of discipleship is high. If we are to be his, we must freely give him all things. Our family and friends are no longer about us, but about him. We have opportunity to prove that our relationships belong to our Maker if our loved ones try to lead us away from him (Luke 14:26).

Discipleship comes at the cost of the cross (Luke 9:23; 14:27). Jesus gave up everything for us. The cross is the culmination of that sacrifice. Our daily cross is daily self-denial, daily centering our life around the goals and aspirations of Jesus.

Jesus gives two illustrations of the importance of evaluating the price of following the Messiah. The first is of a rash builder. This is a man who builds a tower without considering how much it will cost. His unfinished tower stands as a testimony to his foolishness (Luke 14:28-30).

The second illustration is of a reasonable king. His kingdom is threatened by an aggressive monarch. This reasonable king gauges his enemies force against his own, he weighs his chances in pitched battle, and he pleads for peace.

The rash builder can choose not to build, yet the reasonable king must choose war or peace.  We have no room for neutrality, we must choose. Sin separates us from our God (Isaiah 59:2), and so God appeals to us to be reconciled to him (2 Cor. 5:20).

Discipleship is costly, but defection is more so. As disciples we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). If we choose to leave Christ, we become flavorless salt (Luke 14:34). While we are in that state, we crucify Christ anew (Hebrews 6:6), and live in fearful anticipation of judgment and fire (Hebrews 10:27).

While warning of the costs of turning away from God, the Hebrews writer gave this encouragement: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (Hebrews 6:9).

Truly everything has a cost. Living for self may seem like a bargain, but the hidden costs are huge. Discipleship is pricey, but the benefits are priceless.

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