There is so much that can be said (and has been said) about Luke 14:28ff, but there have been new insights for me as I’ve meditated on the text over several days’ time. Jesus is speaking of the cost of discipleship. Here is found the well-known teaching that one must hate his own life and take up his own cross in order to be a disciple. By way of illustration, Jesus uses two figures: 1) building a tower, and 2) suing for peace with a superior adversary.
It is this second metaphor that has caught my attention recently. “What king, if he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down to take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” Jesus then says that the weaker king will go out to the stronger king and sue for peace before the battle’s begun.
God is the superior King. Who am I to come against Him with the miserable little force at my command? How can I stand against His demand that the whole earth submit to Him? My “army” includes my will, my body, my intellect, my talents, my stamina, my length of days, my wisdom, my creative force. In every area I am at such a disadvantage that I should immediately go to God, while He is a long way off, and ask for His terms of peace. It’s clear that He will be victorious, and if I were to engage Him in this battle for sovereignty, all my energies would be expended, and I would be completely defeated.
So, it’s wisdom to submit myself to Him before the battle rages, before all that I have and all that I am is used up in my futile attempt to win a war against God. Jesus then says, “So therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” Just as a weaker king must completely bow to the will of the victor, and place all his holdings in the other King’s control, so must I ask for terms of peace with God, and give Him complete control over my “army” and holdings–my life. These are His terms of peace: surrender all, everything you have that is valuable to you–wife, children, father, mother, land, even your own soul.
But there is good news, Jesus said that if we leave these things for his sake, we will get back much more in this life and in the life to come. So, in the process of surrendering my holdings to the Lord, I receive more than I surrender. This also happens in wars; the greater king may give authority to the weaker king because of his submission. It shows wisdom, character and understanding to submit in such a situation.
But, and this is very important, I must truly surrender all to Him. I must take up my own cross and die to myself, receiving God’s will for my life. I cannot play a game with God, withholding from Him what I most want to keep to myself; the Lord will not let it stand. He is the one true God. There is no other before Him–not even me. I must surrender all, just as the weaker king must fall before the superior king and be dependent on his will.
God is much smarter than I am. He is much wiser, loving, patient, stronger, and more joyful. It’s good to surrender to such a King.