In this 2-part post, I’ll give some background and reflection on one of Jesus’ parables and in the next post I’ll tie it in to the topic of climate change.
Jesus told a parable about counting the cost:
A king is thinking about going to war with another country. You better bet the king will send some scouts or spies to figure out how big the other army is. Do his forces even have a chance? If not, the costs are far too high and he’d be foolish to wage war.
A builder wants to build a tower. A competent builder would sit down and figure out how much it costs to build the tower, and only build it if he can afford it. Otherwise, the builder will run out of money, the tower will only be partially built, and people will see it and laugh.
Counting the cost is simply good common sense. It helps you make good decisions.
Without counting the cost you might honestly not know how to choose between 2 options. If you’re already leaning toward the bad option and you don’t count the cost, you’ll probably pick the wrong choice!
Being a follower of Jesus back during his day wasn’t easy. He had an alternative view of how human relations should work, one based on love, forgiveness, and justice. He used an analogy of a godly kingdom founded on these values, one that was blasphemous to the actual kingdoms of his day because those kingdoms were founded (partly? mostly?) on power and oppression. Even more, kings justified their power and authority by claiming it was from God. As a result, they couldn’t stomach any competing kingdom or authority within their own kingdom. Jesus’ view of a godly kingdom was also blasphemous to those who insisted that religious rules were more important than love, or who coveted their religious leadership mainly because of the power it gave them over others.
The movement Jesus started was difficult, and dangerous. Friends might stop being your friend. Family might disown you. Religious or state authorities might kill or imprison you.
But there were also perks: a new way of life, a deep sense of peace and purpose, and forging bonds of friendship and new family deeper than blood.
Today, Christianity is generally an accepted part of our culture. It’s often associated with privilege, respect, or power. I personally believe that institutional Christianity has forgotten, ignores, or explains away many of the deepest, most profound, and most difficult of Jesus’ teachings, especially those on power, violence, justice, and self-giving love.
But getting back to Jesus’ time and the original context of the parable, counting the costs of discipleship. Being aware of the costs – acknowledging and facing them – was actually better than ignoring them. By counting the cost in advance, a potential follower of Jesus could decide if the path was really worth it. When or if suffering came later on they would be ready and could accept it.
Stay tuned for next time, when I apply this to our current challenge of climate change and weaning ourselves from fossil fuels.