August 15, 1995
A salesman trying to sell a refrigerator to a couple said, “Look, you can save enough on your food bill to pay for it.”
The husband answered, “We’re paying for a car on the bus fare we save, we’re paying for a washing machine on the coin laundry bill we save, we’re paying for a television set on the cost of movies we don’t see anymore. It looks as if we can’t afford to save more money right now.”
Sometimes spending money does save money. The cost of doing laundry for a large family in coin-operated machines can soon add up to the price of a washing machine. However, “savings” do not always materialize. If I left the house only once a week and paid a taxi fare of $10 each time, it would not be economical to buy a car and pay for insurance, gasoline and repairs just to save on taxi fare.
We can be too easily influenced by a sales presentation. There are occasions when it might be wiser to sit down with a calculator and count the cost. How does the hidden costs associated with the purchase compare to any savings? Will I wind up with black or red ink on the ledgers?
Counting the cost is a familiar principle in many activities. I sometimes ask myself, is it worth losing sleep to stay up for the late show? A handyman considers the cost of a trip to the store for a few nails when there might be enough odd nails in his workshop to finish the job. A stressed out employee might even weigh the cost of working with stress against the price of a vacation. Everyone would rather come out ahead, not wind up short.
Jesus talked about counting the cost too. He said God rewards kindness paid to people who cannot return the favor. He illustrated with a story about a man who invited people to come to his banquet but they all made excuses. He told his servant to go out into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame instead.
The implication was that these people who made excuses are like the people God invites into His kingdom. Sometimes they say they cannot because of family pressures or financial concerns. He said those people needed to count the cost. He added, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Unlike refrigerators, washing machines, television sets and cars, eternal life is a free gift. There is nothing we can do to pay for it, earn or deserve it. God offers it to anyone who is willing to accept it as He offers it. However, eternal life is not cheap — it cost Jesus His very life and whenever anyone accepts this gift, their own lives begin to change and others may react negatively. For instance, family members may think it weird that one of their own all of a sudden wants to go to church or read a Bible. Others may persecute or even kill dedicated Christians.
Following Christ does have a cost. That is why Jesus said “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” While giving up everything does not pay for eternal life, but having eternal life requires turning everything over to Christ. That is why it is important to count the cost. Is living forever in heaven with God worth it?