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Great Price, Great Value

Please read Luke 14:25-35 in your Bible.

“Great Price, Great Value” sounds more like an advertising slogan than a message title. The difference is that claim is not true at the grocery store.

In a March 28, 2011 in the New York Times entitled “Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags,” Stephanie Clifford and Catherine Rampell blew the lid off packaging that conceals shrinking quantities of food. Examples cited:

Whole wheat pasta went from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces

Canned vegetables went from 16 ounces to 11.

Baby wipes went from 80 to 72.

Sugar went from 5 lb bags to 4 lbs.

A box of saltine crackers contains

about 15 percent fewer crackers than the old package.

A can of tuna went from 6 ounces to 5 ounces.

Bags of chips now hold 20 percent fewer chips.

Orange juice went from a 64 oz. to 58 ounces.

“’Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity,’ John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School, said. ‘And companies try to do it in such a way that you don’t notice; maybe keeping the height and width the same, but changing the depth so the silhouette of the package on the shelf looks the same.’”

CONTEXT: V. 25 = LARGE CROWDS WERE TRAVELING WITH JESUS provides two measures of Jesus’ success in reaching people. First, that He had attracted a LARGE CROWD. Second, that the CROWD was dedicated enough to travel with Jesus.

Many of us would look on the LARGE CROWD and be content. We’d be thrilled they were showing that level of commitment. But Jesus decided to stop their journey, AND TURNING TO THEM, confronted their true level of commitment.

He did this because He knew two things. One, He knew the hearts of those around Him, that their commitment was still superficial. Two, He knew that He was headed to His death. It was an act of mercy on His part to make it clear that following Him from that point on was going to require a lot more of them.

Jesus taught the cost of discipleship should be counted first because He comes first.

1. Following Jesus will require reordered priorities (25-27).

Jesus’ statements are radical; we need to be careful to not “dumb them down.” Whenever you hear a commentator or teacher follow these statements with a “Yeah, but…” or “What He really meant is…” kind of sentence, be very wary about what follows. We will take Jesus’ two statements of the cost of discipleship at face value.

Statement #1 - self and family (the next extension of self) must cease to be your first priority. It is radical to hear Jesus say a condition of discipleship is to HATE your family and your life. This is a comparative statement; compared to your love for God, a disciple’s relationship to family may feel like HATE.

As ever, this is a question of priorities. We know that our priorities are to be in this order:

God First

“Neighbors” Second (under “Others,” in this order)

Church

People in Need

One’s Own Family

Self Third (but still deserving of love)

Statement #2 - Jesus is first priority. Our days are to be spent imitating the life of Jesus Christ. Carrying a CROSS is a radical way of describing discipleship; it is imitating the selfless sacrifice Jesus demonstrated when He carried His cross.

It’s hard for us to assess the emotional impact of these words on the original hearers. Remember, Jesus had not yet been to the cross when He spoke these words. To a pious Jew of His time, the cross was an offense, the most tragic, disgusting, embarrassing way to die. It would be like me asking you to carry your lethal injection with you.

To FOLLOW Jesus is to be directed by His teachings. To FOLLOW Jesus means to obey His commands.

2. The cost of discipleship should be calculated because it is better not to start than to start and not finish (28-35).

Jesus’ first example is the unfinished tower (28-30). Jesus used a practical example from everyday life. In that time, people built towers for protection, frequently to watch over vineyards, pastures and fields. A tower was security for economic assets.

To start a project like a TOWER and not complete it is an obvious, embarrassing mistake. It would stand out like a sore thumb in the rural landscape. The rest of the New Testament similarly emphasizes finishing life in the faith. A priority is placed on remaining faithful.

Jesus’ second example is the war never started (31-33). Jesus’ second example was not from everyday life, as royalty would make this decision. However, the common man who might be drafted into military service would like to think a king put this kind of thought into such a big decision.

To be Jesus’ DISCIPLE requires giving up every claim of ownership of worldly things that come between you and God. Anything that might become an idol, coming between you and God must be the first to go.

Jesus gave a warning in the example of the outcome of useless salt (34-35). To say SALT IS GOOD is an understatement. In Jesus’ day it was so valuable it was used as a form of currency.

In that part of the world, salt could be potent up to fifteen years. If it had passed that “expiration date,” or if it had been “cut” too often with other material, or was in some other way ruined, salt had absolutely no value; it wasn’t even useful for the garden or manure pile.

This is a warning against a shallow commitment that will not survive the trials a disciple will face. You can’t compare the type of trials from one disciple to another: God knows us fully as individuals and our experiences may vary greatly, but are perfectly appropriate in each case.

“HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR” (35) is a phrase oft-repeated in Revelation’s letters to the churches. Here as well as there, the phrase means “Pay attention, this is important to people of faith.”

Jesus taught the cost of discipleship should be counted first because He comes first.

Following Jesus is a life-long journey, so the decision to follow Him is not a decision we make once and for all time. It is a decision we re-make every time trials and temptations come. Discipleship is less about how you start, more about how you finish.

“Counting the cost” does not mean itemizing every worldly thing following Jesus may require us to sacrifice. It is more radical than that. Discipleship is a decision to sacrifice everything worldly and then follow Jesus.

Here’s the good news, what we get in exchange for all this worldly junk we won’t get to keep anyway: we don’t walk this journey alone. We have God and we have one another. At the end, we have an eternity of joyous living. Keep counting the cost and happily paying it, knowing you are heaven bound and it is worth every earthly thing to attain to it.

RESOURCES:

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/business/29shrink.html

The NIV Application Commentary, Luke, Darrell L. Bock

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