While in a church context you may hear people use the phrase “count the cost.” It is usually said as counsel before someone is making a decision. It is usually applied to a major undertaking such as a business opportunity or even marriage. When Jesus used it he was actually referring to a major undertaking: a life of following him. Living a life of discipleship. Counting the cost does not solely refer to counting the monetary cost. Jesus was speaking of a different kind of cost.
When I hear the phrase “count the cost” I always think I have to give up something and that does not appeal to me. Not at all. While it does mean that I have to assess what I have to give up, it also means that I must assess what I have to gain. Counting the cost means assessing what I am willing to give up in order to gain everything a life with Christ has to offer. Jesus pointed to this in his parables of the pearl of great price and the treasure in the field. The worker bought the land just so he could get the treasure in the field (Matthew 13:44). The connoisseur of fine pearls who found a pearl of great value and sold all that he had in order to buy it (Matthew 13:45-46).
Counting the cost is not just about giving up this vice or that comfort. Counting the cost when it refers to a life of discipleship with Jesus, means assessing whether giving away your whole life in order to follow Jesus is worth it. It is long term thinking concerning whether you are willing to give up everything you have to make Jesus the leader and absolute authority in your life. What Jesus is admonishing in the passage about counting the cost may seem like a stern warning but when you think about it, counting the cost is actually a no-brainer invitation. It is a no-brainer to give away everything you have for a newly discovered treasure. It is a no-brainer to sell everything you have for a pearl worth far more than everything you have. Jesus lets us know it is not easy just like building a tower or going to war. It’s not easy but when you compare the cost of following Christ to the rewards of a life following him….it’s a no-brainer.