“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28).
BEFORE EMBARKING ON A PROJECT, MOST PEOPLE THINK ABOUT WHETHER THEY ARE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE. Halfway through the work is not a good time to start wrestling with whether the results are going to be worth the sacrifice. We should have already done that. So Jesus said those considering obedience to His gospel should “count the cost.” It is disastrous not to do so.
When it comes to following Christ, however, we don’t know what the cost is going to be, at least not specifically. We know that it may be very costly — in fact, it may cost everything that’s valuable to us in this life — but when we are baptized into Christ, we can’t see very far down the road. All we know is that Jesus requires a commitment that holds nothing back. “If anyone would come after me,” He said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34,35).
So to “count the cost” would be to ask whether we’re willing to make that kind of commitment and then keep the promise even if it kills us. Are there limits to our submission to His authority? Are there any conditions or fine print in our contract with Him? Is there anything we wouldn’t do if following Him required us to do that? These are deep, heart-probing questions, and the serious disciple is one who answered them decisively before he made his commitment. Solomon said about promises in general, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). If all we can say is “maybe,” we insult the God who is our Savior.
We shouldn’t be surprised that there is a cost to be counted. If rightful love for God is what the gospel calls for, that response will be costly. Love requires sacrifice, and the higher the love, the bigger the sacrifice. But what is the alternative? If we turn away from the gospel because of the costliness of the love it requires, there is nothing left but lesser loves — counterfeits that offer little more than disappointment, having cost us little more than what was convenient. So will we rise to the highest love, pay its price, and receive its joy? There is no more fundamental or far-reaching question in this world.
“True love is always costly” (Billy Graham).