Most people have the wrong idea about the cost of discipleship. When Bonhoeffer first coined the phrase, it was a helpful corrective to a very nominalistic faith. But nowadays the phrase “cost of discipleship” stirs up images of spiritual heroes: those who’ve heeded the call and have become a special elite kind of Christian. The Few. The Proud. The Disciples.
We come by it honestly, of course. We hear Jesus say, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:33), and it seems obvious that this call to be a disciple is a BIG DEAL. Giving up everything?! Amazing!
The cost of discipleship seems to be very high, and it’s a big sacrifice to say yes. But I contend that the cost of discipleship is actually a lot “lower” than most people think.
The cost of discipleship is also about what you gain.
Why is the cost of discipleship lower than we might think? Because, like any value proposition, you have to compare the cost with the benefit.
The cost of discipleship is lower than most people think, because the benefits of discipleship are actually much higher than most people realize!
You have to add up what you gain, not just what you lose. It’s like the man in Jesus’ parable:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field (Matthew 13:44).
Disciples aren’t people making special sacrifices for God, they’re people who have realized there’s a treasure in the field that’s worth more than everything they own. These are people who realize that becoming a disciple of Jesus is the “deal” of a lifetime.
Nobody reluctantly becomes a disciple.
This is why Dallas Willard said that nobody ever (really) reluctantly becomes a disciple of Jesus. If they do, they are completely misunderstanding the value proposition. If you’re hesitant about discipleship, you’re not calculating it right.
Discipleship is actually the best deal you’re ever going to get as a human. Discipleship to Jesus is the most phenomenal bargain anyone could ever hope for.
That’s what “counting the cost” means: add up how much it costs, and how much you gain, and make an appropriate investment.
The man who found the treasure in the field was “counting the cost,” and that’s he joyfully sold everything he owned to buy the field: the value of everything he owned wasn’t nearly as high as the value of the treasure.
The point of the parable is that the life you gain in the kingdom as a disciple of Jesus is far more valuable than the stuff you have to give up to get it.
The value proposition of discipleship
So if Jesus’ call to “Follow me!” still sounds daunting to you, the problem is that you don’t really understand yet the value of what you’re gaining. You don’t yet have a fully formed picture in your mind of what life now under the reign of God could be like.