Counting the Cost
One of the most famous blunders in the history of construction is the so-called “Leaning Tower” of Pisa.
Begun in the year 1173 it took nearly two centuries for the completion of the tower. Its stated purpose was to be a bell tower but in fact it was intended to be a monument to the greatness of the community that built it. Something that people from miles around would look up to. We know today however that the leaning tower stands not as a monument to greatness but rather its architects and builders are remembered more for their careless engineering. It is a story similar to the examples Jesus uses in the Gospel today.
Jesus tells the crowds that they cannot rush ahead without making sure they have what it takes to reach their goal. A King shouldn’t fight a battle when he is not sure if he has enough soldiers. A builder shouldn’t start a construction project before he knows if he has enough money and material or before he has studied whether the land will provide a suitable foundation for the project. And we, we who want to be followers of Christ need to the count the cost. We need to know the price of being a disciple if we are going to accept that invitation. And the price, as laid out in the Gospel today is to carry the cross that Jesus carries. The cost is nothing less than our lives.
Someone once approached the famous pianist Victor Borge to ask for an autograph. The adoring fan, in her enthusiasm, said to the musician, “I would give my life to play the piano the way you do.” Borge’s response was, “that’s what I did.” And it’s true. We know that in order to be a great musician or a great artist or a great athlete we must spend our whole life dedicated to the endeavor. For most of us it costs too much to be great and we are happy to just dabble.
We plonk away at the piano, we play a bit of golf on the weekend. For many of us, at times, the same hold true for our Christianity. We play at it. We do good works; we are kind to our neighbor. But when the crunch comes and being a Christian begins to cost us too much, our inclination might be to put it aside, just for a little while. Young people face the pressure of their peers to try drugs and alcohol or, if not, risk being uncool and unpopular. Business people face the temptations of using unethical practices in order to stay competitive. When somebody does something to wrong us we might want to hold a grudge refusing to make the first step toward reconciliation. But Jesus says the call to discipleship doesn’t have room for dabblers, it asks nothing less than our full commitment.
There are real costs involved in being a disciple, are you willing to pay the price?