KEY THOT: Behind all the excuses for not fully committing ourselves to Christ as His followers is this root attitude: “let me first” (v.59, 61). This me-first attitude is the driving motive of this world and is contrary to Christ’s self-sacrificial love. We cannot become true disciples of Christ if we do not put to death this "me-first" attitude. In fact, Jesus has made it quite clear that this attitude is incompatible with discipleship: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). The expression “deny himself” (rejecting self-gratification) and “take up his cross daily” (willing to die to self rather than exalt self) are prerequisites to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
In the story of the three would-be disciples, we find that this “me-first” attitude created three kinds of challenges in discipleship:
- wrong motive (v.58): “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The first would-be "me-first" disciple confuses the abundant life with the good life defined by the 5C’s: cash, car, career, condo and club-membership. But Jesus says that those who want to follow him must be prepared for a life of deprivation, of lack and of sacrifices.
- wrong priority (v.60): “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” The second would-be "me-first" disciple puts his personal agenda above God’s agenda. Even though his claim to want to put “family-first” sounds very noble, his hidden heart condition is not so noble. He is not prepared to have “no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3). Jesus is not saying we should not take care of our parents—he is saying that we cannot put our parents (or wife or children) above God. Jesus has already defined our two top priorities as disciples: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Mt 6:33). It’s “seek first”, not “see first” or "family first" or "me first".
- wrong focus (v.62): “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” The third would-be "me-first" disciple wants the best of both worlds. He wants to be engaged in God’s field (plowing) but he is unwilling to let go of his former social life. He was not prepared to give up his “good life” for the “great life”. Jesus is saying that we can never plow a straight line in the field if we keep looking back. We cannot be fruitful in following Christ if we keep casting our eyes on the "good life" that we have left behind. The song a true disciple should be singing is, "The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back. No turning back."
In the larger context of the gospel, it’s deceptive to believe that faith is easy. Believing is easy but faith that saves is not easy but hard. According to John Wimber, faith is spelt R-I-S-K. It is not the path to an easy and care-free life—the "good" life. But risky faith is the pre-requisite to the great life that God has promised us in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Father, deliver us from self-deception of easy-believism that is founded on me-ism. Thank You that the faith You have called us is one that is robust and self-denying. Grant us grace to live a life of true discipleship. Amen.