Day 18 - Challenge
Luke 14: 28–33
‘Whoever does not carry their own cross and come after me, can’t be my disciple.
‘For which of you who wants to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the expense to see if they have sufficient to complete it? [This is] so as not to have all the spectators/onlookers start to make fun of him, if he lays the foundation and doesn’t have the resources to finish it off: “This fellow began to build, and didn’t have the resources to finish it off.”
‘Or what monarch, journeying to engage in war with another monarch, will not first sit down and consider if he is able, with ten thousand [troops], to encounter the one who is coming at him with twenty thousand [troops]. And if he can’t, then while the other monarch is still a long way off, he sends an embassy and asks for negotiations for peace.
In just the same way, any of you who does not say farewell to all their possessions cannot be my disciple.’
On a trip to Egypt earlier this year, I was struck by the enormous number of unfinished buildings, with concrete piles and steel rods protruding from their upper levels. Most of the new buildings we saw had been abandoned halfway through. Our guide, Ibrahim, explained: you only have to pay tax once a building is finished, so never finishing it is a clever move. It’s less costly to keep your options open. This is what Jesus is getting at as he turns to the tag-along crowd, permanently curious but never committed. The stuff about building materials and troops is not about only starting what you can be sure of finishing by your own power. Jesus reproaches the Pharisees who pride themselves on their own righteousness, virtue and strength of character, and he lifts up those who know their poverty, their inability to build or fight with their own resources. This is about trust. Entering the kingdom of God means saying an absolute ‘farewell’ to all possessions, all self-sufficiency, and committing ourselves to a radical dependence on God’s love, which we can always count on, but never earn. Scary, yes – but wouldn’t it be more costly not to, in the end?
Jesus, I know that you’re looking at me.
I want to follow you,
but I know I don’t have what it takes to be holy,
so I hang back. After all,
it’s easier to be in the company of the crowd,
who demand less of me than you do.
Nevertheless, I want to take a decisive step towards you,
even though this act of commitment alarms me.
So give me just enough courage, Jesus,
today and every day,
to step out of the crowd towards you.