Discipleship Is Expensive :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew chapter 8:18-22 (continued)

“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side.  Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”

Last time we discussed service. It is important for the Lord’s people to be involved in service.  People who are not wholly invested in the Lord’s church have no connection to it and no loyalty to it or to Him for that matter. One cannot profess to be loyal to Christ and not be loyal to His New Testament church.

After all He died to build it and it is He that empowers and sustains it.  You cannot be fully engaged in the service of the Lord outside of the New Testament church. Sadly we have a lot of people who are in the New Testament church and are still not involved; they attend by they  do not participate.

Today we will address the issue of the cost of discipleship. Most people are ready to be involved in the Lord’s churches and the Lord’s work until some kind of cost is involved. We assign value to an activity by what we are willing to invest of our own time and money? For instance, we may be involved in a sports league; in Canada as with many other places, hockey is very important to the lives of people.

People will get up early, stay up late, drive for countless hours and spend an enormous amount  of money on hockey. Often you can hear parents complain about the cost of the game; fees, equipment, food, travel, tickets and on and on, but each year they still sign up the kids for the sport. Why? Because they deem that it is important.  Someone, either mom or dad loves the sport; maybe they play it as well and they get the kids involved and foot the cost no matter what.

I work in the automobile industry in addition to my work as a pastor, and I cannot tell you  the number of parents who come in to buy a car because they need the room for the hockey bags. Imagine that people come to buy a car simply because they need more room for the sports equipment.

What if we in the Lord’s churches had the same kind of commitment? What if we made decisions about all of our purchases, all of our schedule and even vacations around the work of the Lord? What if the Lord’s work and ministry controlled our lives like hockey controls  the life of these parents? Imagine how the Lord’s churches would prosper?

Why are people so wholly invested in the things of the world? This is a legitimate question because a lot of the Lord’s people will forgo church to attend the hockey tournament or the soccer tournament; so they have made a choice to say that the temporary benefits of the tournament are more important than the Lord and attendance to His church. Think about that.  But are we not all in a similar boat? How many of us stay out late on a Saturday night repeatedly, knowing that we will be tired for church and unable to give the Lord our all for worship?

How many of us will be to church late each week, but we are first to work on Monday? We have determined that we do not owe the Lord punctuality. How many of us pay all the bills first and then give the Lord the “leftovers” which is often nothing?

Earlier I asked why are people so wholly invested in the things of the world? The simple answer is this: They perceive that there is a return on their investment. The kids are happy, they may get a trophy. They may be discovered and be the next Gretzky or Crosby or Pele. Who knows. So parents invest hours and money into the temporal world for the chance to gain a bit of glory? Glory that is fleeting at best and limited to one location or city.

What are you willing to give up for Jesus? Verses 18-20

This is the questions of the ages to us. What will the choice to serve the Lord Jesus cost us? If you truly want to serve the Lord, there will be a cost. In these verses we find a scribe, he would have been a man of some means. He would have had a home and a warm bed to rest in at night.

Scribes ruled alongside the priest. They were mainly writers; their job was to make copies of decrees and documents in the age before printing. We see scribes being used in passage like Jeremiah 8:8 and Esther 8:9—to make official copies of edicts for the king. Thus the scribes were usually well paid, as they worked mainly for the king. But in the time of Jesus, there was no Jewish king in Israel so the ruling class were the priests.

So the scribe had a good job, with good income and had some degree of respect and regard among the people. Jesus on the other hand was despised and rejected by men. Jesus had nowhere to lay His head and no bed of His own. In Luke 8:1-3 we find that Jesus’ earthly ministry was supported mainly by women,

“Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good  news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:1-3).

Jesus explained to this scribe that the cost of discipleship was extreme. Was he willing to give  up his home, his bed, his position and his pride to take on the call of Christ? God will not tolerate any type of duality in His people. He established this in the first commandment, Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

The women mentioned in Luke gave of their own money; they understood and were wholly invested in the work of the Lord. Yet this scribe was unwilling to give up house, home or the comforts of his life for the cause of Christ. Sadly too many of us are of the same mindset. We do not expect there to be a real cost to serving the Lord. After all “Jesus paid it all.” We rarely quote the second phrase, “All to Him I owe.”

For too many of us, Jesus is still paying and we are freeloaders on His grace.

We are still children looking for handouts from the Lord rather than adults investing our livelihood and lives in His eternal Kingdom. I live in a comfortable home; I have cupboards and a fridge full of food.  I drive a decent vehicle and sleep in a comfortable bed each night. For the most part there has not been this kind of call on me to give up these things.

I am not here to make myself look better than you, rather I want to express to us in the New Testament churches of the West that just maybe we have become too accustomed to our comforts and they have become our gods. Many of us would find it hard to give up these things for the Lord. I hope that all of us would give them up. I hope that I would give them up if called.

Nothing in our lives can be allowed to be more precious that Jesus and His work. No possession, no person and no position can be more precious to us than Jesus. This is the cost of true discipleship. What if we were as committed to the eternal kingdom of Jesus as many of our friends are committed to sports and their hobbies?

What would the work of the Lord look like? Would it ever lack for funds? Would we see new recruits each week? Would we have to build bigger arenas (churches), expand our worship times and squeeze more services in each week to accommodate the masses? Well this is what happens when people are committed and invested. This is what happens when Jesus is more important than hockey or money or loved ones or whatever we have as our idols.

Let the dead bury the dead, verse 20

Those are harsh words. Wow, Jesus where is the compassion? Where is the sympathy for this man? His father just died and He won’t even let him go and bury him? This does not sound like the Jesus of the gospels, the one who cried over Jerusalem and wept over Lazarus. Where is the Jesus who had compassion on widows and orphans, the one who healed the sick and befriended the outcasts?

The Jesus in Matthew 8:20 appears to be cruel, hard hearted and insensitive, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Don’t even mourn your father—just let him go and come follow me. Who wants to follow this Jesus? Who wants to follow this stone hearted Jesus?

This is where we have to study the Bible to make sense of the things that are said. This man did not say to Jesus, “Hey Lord my dad has just died, please let me go and bury him and then I will come follow you,” No he wanted to go back and wait until his father had died before he would follow Jesus.

What are you waiting on to line-up before you serve Jesus and simply follow Him?

Is it the new promotion? Is it the university education? Is it the new man, new girl, birth of  your child. We can name a thousand things we are waiting for before we serve the Lord wholeheartedly. This man Jesus spoke to was going to go back home and wait until his father had died before he would follow Jesus.

We don’t even know if his father was ill.  He could have been in perfect health and may have lived for decades, and this man would be wasting his youth, his talents, his energy and his life waiting for something to happen.

How many of us are like that? We are waiting for some life-altering event to happen before we push ahead for Jesus. In the meantime we waste the resources of our youth and youthful energy on nothing.

What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for the raise before you begin tithing? How much of God’s money will you waste before you simply give Him what is His?

I have nothing against university educations, I have two degrees and I have siblings who attended and graduated from university. But a lot of people in the Lord’s churches are so focused on that they have no time to serve the Lord. It is all about getting the degree and the good job.  Not about being available for Jesus.

Jesus does not need your degree to use you; in fact by the time many young Christians have graduated they are so in debt they don’t have any time to give Jesus. They need to work and pay the debt down. Many don’t often end up working in the field for which they studied and so the time invested is often time ill invested.

While we are getting ahead we kind of put God off to the side. (He can wait while we get ourselves established and secure and then when we have it all squared away; then, we can finally give ourselves to Jesus.) This is idolatry. When Jesus called the apostles, the Bible says they left all to follow Him.

Peter makes that very statement in Matthew 19:27, “Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

Too many of us are busy building a kingdom here on earth. Our hearts are tied to our possessions, our families, our wealth and our money. These things really define us and not the treasures in the kingdom of God. We simply don’t have time to store up treasures in heaven; we are fully involved in the treasures of this earth. And so Jesus has to wait for us to bury our fathers, marry our wives, raise our kids, graduate school and buy a house and on and on and then we can serve for Him…

He will not wait! We simply lose out on the opportunities and benefits of serving the eternal kingdom of God.  We trade the wealth of heaven for the gold of earth. We forget that gold is so plentiful in heaven that they use it to pave the streets. Climb up on the cross for a second, look at His perspective, is His cause worth it?

“ But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” (Joshua 24:15)