"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it--lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"
Jesus speaks very bluntly about where one's priority in relationships must be. God must be number one. If an individual does not hate every member of his family and even his own life also, he cannot be a true disciple of Christ. Here is the first of three times in this context where Jesus says that one cannot be a disciple of His unless he meets certain conditions (cf. 14:27,33).
The word "hate" is not used here in an absolute sense or else Jesus' words would contradict the Scriptures elsewhere (e.g., Eph. 5:25ff). Jesus uses the word in this context in a comparative sense (cf. Matt. 10:37; Gen. 29:31). In other words, Jesus is teaching that to hate one's family is to love them less than God. One must love Almighty God to such a great extent that his love toward all members of his family is like hate in comparison (cf. Deut. 13:6-11). Additionally, one must also love God more than his own life (cf. Phil. 1:21; Acts 20:24; I Cor. 6:19,20).
Jesus likely made these strong statements because of the many people who surrounded Him, most of who were only committed to Him very loosely. Jesus sought to change that fact, and so He clearly defined the difference between a real disciple and one who was merely present and enthusiastic for the moment. All should contemplate this question seriously: How can anyone claim to be a true disciple of Jesus if he shows by his actions that he loves himself and his family more than he loves God (i.e., by the way he uses his time, money, abilities, etc.)?
"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (cf. Matt. 10:38). Each disciple will have his own unique "cross" to bear. Anything that we must forsake or endure in order to be faithful to God is a portion of our "cross." One must be willing to suffer for the Lord if he intends to be a follower. If we are striving to imitate Jesus (cf. I Cor. 11:1; I Pet. 2:21), then we should expect suffering and persecution (cf. II Tim. 3:12). These are inherent costs of discipleship.
In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus gives an illustration for them to consider personally regarding the cost of discipleship. If one intends to build a tower (or any structure of size for that matter), he must first plan and determine whether he will be able to complete it once he begins. To start a project of this size and then not be able to complete it would be foolish and a waste. One must "count the cost" before starting!
Let it be noted that this illustration is not intended to discourage anyone from attempting to become a disciple of Jesus. It is intended to be a warning for all who would casually begin such a large undertaking without understanding and possessing the commitment necessary to be successful (cf. II Pet. 2:20-22). One should not become a Christian on a whim; the decision should seriously and deliberately be calculated.
If one is willing to make the necessary commitment (and follow through with it) then he can faithfully "build" his life for the Lord, but it all starts with the desire and understanding of the price that will be paid. If one has the willingness to put God first in all things, then he need not be afraid of failure (cf. I Cor. 10:13). Such a one should begin "building"!
Although laying the foundation is important (physically and spiritually), one is not finished when this task is complete. One who stops building after the foundation is finished is sure to be mocked by others--whether he is building a tower or a life as a disciple. Obviously such a one didn't make a proper evaluation of his intentions before he started laying the foundation (e.g., Matt. 13:20-22). What he started but didn't finish will do him no good. It will only be a monument to his folly and lack of commitment! Additionally, for one to become a disciple and then not be able to endure faithfully (i.e., continue building) will definitely not result in others desiring to become followers of Christ.
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.