“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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.” — Jesus (Luke 14:28-32).
Sometimes, in the medical world, it is wise for a patient to seek a second opinion. G. Campbell Morgan, one of my favorite pastors and authors of yesteryear, once gave a second opinion about the text before us. The standard interpretation is that before you commit to the disciple-life, you should count the cost. In the way someone counts the cost before building a tower, you should count the cost before committing yourself to the disciple-life. In the way a king considers whether he has what it takes to defeat a foreign power, so also you should consider whether you’ve got what it takes to do the disciple-life. In other words, know what you are getting into before committing to take up your cross and follow Jesus — that is the common interpretation.
But Morgan’s second opinion seems more fitting to me. He points out two things — context and implication — to prove his opinion. First, in the context, Jesus had just invited His men to live the disciple life. He told them what they must do, how they must forsake all to follow after Him. Jesus sandwiched the word picture of the tower and the army with statements about making all relationships secondary to following Him, bearing our cross to follow Him, and renouncing all we have to become His disciple. That is the context. But second, the implication, is that Jesus must not be made to say, through our interpretation, that He views the disciple life as a mere option. We should not say that He says something like, “Count the cost. If you aren’t into it, if you don’t want to be a disciple, just be something lesser, for you just aren’t cut out for it.” No, Jesus urges all of us to follow Him as disciples.
It is here Morgan gives his second opinion. Perhaps, he thinks, Jesus isn’t telling us to count the cost, but that He is counting the cost. Jesus builds, after all, and Jesus battles too. He is building a kingdom and warring after human souls. As He thinks of all He is trying to build and the war He is heading into, He counts the cost. He even asks, “Which of you, when building a tower…?” In other words, “You all do this whenever you build and whenever you war. Should I not do the same?” Does He have the right building materials? Does He have the right soldiers?
And what are those right materials, those right soldiers? Those who make all other relationships secondary to the one with Him. Those who bear their cross and come after Him. Those who renounce all for Him. These are the materials and the armies He needs. To which all of us would say, “Oh, Lord Jesus, make me more and more fit for You and Your service!”