Hate Your Family? Give Away Everything You Own? – The Cost of Discipleship
Jesus’ teaching on the cost of discipleship is strongly emphasized in Luke, as similar stories pop up in multiple places in his Gospel. Luke 14:25-27 says,
Now large crowds were going along with Him (Jesus); and He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Directly after this, from verses 28-33, Jesus offers the crowd an analogy that he concludes by saying, “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
Why would Jesus tell people that in order to be one of his disciples, they must hate their family and give up everything they own? Is it not strange that Jesus tells us to love our enemy and our neighbor, but then to hate our family? What might be going on here? It does not seem as though Jesus feels immediately obligated to enlighten the crowd on what he means by these confusing and disheartening words. However, two chapters later, Jesus reveals more of the puzzle to his disciples at the end of a parable when he says, “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13). Jesus is not saying that we should literally hate our families, but he is saying something just as bold. He is saying that in order to be a disciple, we must choose him instead of our families and him instead of money. In his commentary on Luke, John Calvin refers to this as a way of “rising above every hindrance”.
Jesus is demanding commitment by telling those who follow him that they must dispose themselves of whatever is holding them back. In the same way, there are things in our lives that hold us back from truly following Christ. As Christians, we need to be on the lookout for anything that we have made idols, even if by accident. It is somewhat overwhelming to think about, but we college students are at turning points in our lives. We are old enough to live independent of our parents, many of us are on the lookout to find a spouse, and we will soon be choosing careers and going into the workforce. As Christians, it is vital that we make these types of decisions with our wills being in line with the will of God. This can only happen when we both name and set aside our idols that keep us from focusing on the true God. Will you wait to find a spouse with whom you can draw closer to Christ? Will you refuse to settle for a job that does not line up with your commitments and convictions as a Christian? Will the money you make from your job become your god?
We may be holding our sins and idols more closely than we realize. Jesus points out that even our family can hold us back from following him. Like the rich ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, are we going to walk away from Jesus because we are not willing to set aside the things that hold us back? (Luke 18:18-30) There is a real danger that we will live our lives worshiping idols, having convinced ourselves that we are living our lives for Christ. To be a Christian means to be a little Christ, or a follower of Christ. Are we willing to count the cost of discipleship? Are we willing to live the life Christ offers us? What will it take? What is holding you back? I challenge you as you read the gospels to be on the lookout for where Jesus is demanding our commitment, as well as to carefully consider how Jesus calls us to live our lives. If you see me holding onto an idol in my life, please be a good brother or sister in Christ and help me see what’s holding me back from following Jesus.