by Dr. Robert Jeffress
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14:28–30
Before you sign on to this thing called Christianity, Jesus says, you better calculate the cost and see if you are really willing to pay it. To sign on as a disciple but not follow through on that commitment is to embarrass not only yourself but also the kingdom of God. And to illustrate that truth, in Luke 14, Jesus gives two parables that illustrate the cost of discipleship.
First, He gives the parable of the builder. Remember, Jesus uses parables to teach important truths. The truth He is illustrating in this parable is about calculating the cost of following Him. He says, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28–30). Jesus is talking about a tower a farmer might build in his vineyard. And the purpose of the tower would be to protect the crops against animals or other people who might try to destroy it. So here is a farmer who begins to build a tower. He laid the foundation but didn’t properly calculate the cost. He runs out of money. So all he has is a foundation and no tower. The result is embarrassment for the farmer. People ridicule him. “You didn’t plan very well, did you?” But not only that, the job is left undone. The vineyard is not protected.
Back in the 1960s, they started building the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas. The developer built two huge steel tower structures . . . but then he ran out of money and construction came to a halt. Those two towers stood there and stood there and stood there for many years. The towers were an eyesore on the city of Dallas. People would look at those towers and say, “What happened? What was wrong with those people that they would start something they couldn’t finish?” Well, that’s the same thing when we don’t follow through on our commitment to God.
The landscape of Christianity is littered with abandoned, half-built towers. These are what remains of those who intended to follow Christ but were unable to follow through on their commitment. Many people still ignore Christ’s warning and try to follow Him without first reflecting on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christianity today—so-called nominal Christianity.
In countries where Christian civilization has spread, thousands of people have covered themselves with a thin veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to be somewhat involved with Christ—enough to be respectable, but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is like a soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its shape to suit their convenience. No wonder cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.