It's really pretty amazing that Jesus could get away with saying some of the things he did--well, he didn't really. He just managed to escape death for a while.
I didn't realize, until recently, that he was explaining to me, through His Word, how my life could actually be worse than dung. I've seen some lives that have been pretty darn crappy -- including my own at times. But Jesus says there is a life spent that is not even fit for a pile of crap -- that's right, not even fit for the dung heap.
What got me thinking: Luke 14: 25-33 chronicles the height of Jesus' ministry (if you judge height, as many do, by # of people following you on tour). Instead of trying to make his ministry bigger, he those that wished to follow him that, compared to a passionate love for him, every other kind of affection toward anyone else better seem like "hate" in comparison (Luke 14: 26). And if you're not able to give up all that you own, just save your feet the corns -- no use walking with him (Luke 14:33).
Jesus calls people to count the cost and judge him more worthy, a greater treasure than any other possible cost (Luke 14: 27-32).
Then Luke 14 ends with two verses that seem like they accidently wandered over from the Sermon on the Mount (like a Flava Flav going front row at a Depeche Mode concert).
"Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears let him hear" (Luke 14: 34-35).
I have ears, Jesus, but I've never understood what that has to do with following you being worth whatever it costs me.
Esplain: So I did what people call "research." Discovered that in the Palestinian world of Jesus' time bakers covered their ovens with salt to have a catalytic (or sparking) effect on the burning fuel. (Kind of like lighter fluid on some hot coals). The fuel was usually, ta-da, cattle dung. After a time, the effect wore off and the salt was thrown away -- no longer fit for the "manure pile" (14:35).
Jesus' point (err, i think): Our lives remain salty when we treasure Jesus as worth any cost we might have to pay. To fail to weigh Jesus as worthy of any cost and, thus, fully trust our lives to him, is a tragic waste. A life that doesn't value Jesus as worth whatever it costs isn't even worth the dung heap. (This put a healthy fear into my priorities & made me consider how I'm directing my affections).
In the famous words of missionary Jim Elliot: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep (ie. his life) to gain what he cannot lose (ie. Jesus)." Parentheses and ie.'s mine.
So here's what I'm thinking: Counting the cost isn't so much about the cost, it's about the treasure. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, what am I really sacrificing for Jesus right now? Now, at times, this is obvious. But sometimes it's not. But either way: I'm asking myself the wrong question. The question is: Am I currently treasuring Jesus above all else?
Do I value Jesus & his words, as Simon Peter did, when hundreds had visibly started to leave Jesus upon a hard teaching?
" So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6: 67-68).
In the face of public humiliation of sticking it out with Jesus, Peter's view of Jesus' great worth remained crystal clear. There is no one else.
Everyone else is retreating to a crappy life. No....it's even worse.