Kigundu Ndwiga, Stewardship Director, East-Central Africa Division
Summary: Following Jesus wholeheartedly, acknowledging His Lordship, is what stewardship is all about. Jesus challenges His potential disciples to count the cost of discipleship. What are some of these costs?
I will never forget that embarrassing Friday afternoon. I went shopping with my cousin at our favorite busy supermarket. With our cart overflowing, we joined the long line of customers, taking what seemed like an eternity to reach the counter.
We got a rude shock when we discovered our goods cost more than our funds allowed. We ransacked our wallets, turned our pockets inside out, desperate to find money we’d overlooked. As our futile search continued, our embarrassment reached unimaginable levels. The impatient customers behind us began shuffling their feet. How we wished the ground would open and swallow us! We had no choice but to return some extras. When we left, my humiliated cousin declared, ?I will always come shopping with a calculator to compute the cost of the stuff I buy to avoid this embarrassment!?
Counting the cost
Following Jesus wholeheartedly, acknowledging His Lordship, is what stewardship is all about. We must not only sit down and count the cost, but we must be willing to pay the price. Many of us begin the Christian journey with zeal but, like the five foolish virgins, lose momentum midway. We do not fully grasp the changes He wants to make within us.
Anything less than complete commitment disqualifies us from being faithful stewards. Ellen White underscores this fact when she makes the following statement: ?God would be better pleased to have six thoroughly converted to the truth than to have sixty make a profession and yet not be truly converted? (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 104).
Luke tells us that large crowds followed Jesus. However, Jesus was not really impressed by statistics. He seemed more interested with the quality rather than the quantity of His ?professed? disciples. Jesus, who could read hearts, knew there were few genuine followers among the crowd. He knew many were actuated by base motives.
? Some believed Jesus was the long-awaited leader who would rescue them from the yoke of the Romans. These were motivated by political desire for earthly greatness.
? Others followed Him because they saw Him to be the solution for their selfish needs. To the sick, Jesus was a mobile clinic. To the hungry, He was a mobile bakery. Others saw Jesus as the Santa Claus of Christmas or the genie in Aladdin’s lamp, whose sole purpose was to cater to their wishes.
? Others were ?secret agents? sent by jealous church leaders to spy on him. They were motivated by envy and misguided pride.
? The ?Kingdom theology? of Jesus attracted many who were looking for a political base. Jesus was not the attraction, but merely the means to political ends.
? Others were dazzled by the spectacular. Jesus’ miracles were fascinating. The healings, the casting out of demons, the resurrections, were a wonder to behold! Many followed just to see Him exercise His tremendous power.
? Others were caught up in the euphoria of what was happening. They were suffering from the ?everybody’s doing it? mentality. Jesus was the ?in thing? and it was fashionable to follow Him.
But there were a few genuine followers who were hungry for His words of hope and the promise of a new life in Him. To this group, whenever Jesus spoke, their hearts were strangely warmed. The words of Peter captured their sentiments: ?Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life? (Jn 8:68).
What motivates us to follow Jesus? What really attracts us? We need to answer with brutal honesty if we are to experience the wholeness that is found in God. Could any of the following be our motives for following?
? Social Motivation. Socializing with the large fraternity of church friends and catching up with the latest juicy gossip.
? Cultural Motivation. Being incorporated into the Judeo-Christian cultural system, with no personal conviction.
? Familial Motivation. ?Following? Jesus, so as not to disappoint loved ones. More concerned with pleasing loved ones than the Lord.
? Political Motivation. Looking for a power base to operate from and ?lording? it over others in the name of Jesus.
? Emotional Motivation. Coming to church to chase the ?euphoria? and the emotions evoked in the worship service, mistaking an emotional high for closeness with
? Welfare Motivation. Viewing the church as a welfare society. Preoccupied with what the church can do for you and not what you can do for God’s Church.
In Luke 14:25-27, Jesus stipulates the price to be paid if we are to become His disciples. He begins with the following words: ?If anyone comes after me?? Jesus defines real discipleship:
1. The potential disciple must hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters. Hate is a very strong word. However, according to Hebrew thought, the word means to ?love less.? To Jesus, I only qualify to be His disciple if I make Him first in my heart.
The good news is that when I choose to make Him first, I receive from Him a new capacity to truly love others with His agape love. In this regard, Jesus sets us an example. When His mother and brothers came to look for Him, Jesus replied: ?My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice? (Lk 8: 19-21). Jesus underscores that God and His word must be held closer to our hearts than our family ties.
2. The potential disciple must carry the cross. Jesus listed the second qualification for discipleship when he declared: ?And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple? (v. 27). The challenge of carrying the cross is an unwelcomed message in this present age. Despite our frantic and sometimes desperate desire to circumvent the cross, Jesus is very direct: no one can be His disciple without carrying his cross. The cross is a symbol of death, and only a person who dies to self can follow Christ and be a true disciple. Therefore, everything we are and have must be consigned to the cross the altar of sacrifice. Paul discovered the secret of carrying his cross for he declared: ?I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me? (Ga 2:20).
For Paul, carrying the cross wasn’t easy. But the end result was worth it— to gain Christ. Like the farmer who sold everything he possessed to buy a field containing hidden treasure, Paul discovered the preciousness of following Jesus. He was willing to sacrifice everything for Christ. He was willing to pay the cost of discipleship. No wonder he declared, ?But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.... I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him? (Php 3:7-9).
Counting the cost
Jesus challenges His potential disciples to count the cost of discipleship (Lk 14:28-33). What are some of these costs? Following Him may cost us friends. It may cost us our families or family members: Alex carries in his body the mark of the cost of following Jesus the loss of one of his eyes. He was nearly killed by his family for turning to Christ from another religion.
Following Jesus may cost us money. A disciple will give up unethical financial practices, return a faithful tithe and give generously to the cause of God and to those in need. Following Him may cost us our employment—the loss of work for refusing to work on Sabbath.
Following Christ will impact my life-style: my treatment of others, my use of time, the books I read, and the things I view and listen to. When I am following Jesus, there is one question I must always ask: ?What would Jesus do??
There is a cost to discipleship. But when we choose to follow and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we make the greatest discovery ever the blessings overwhelmingly exceed the cost!