What does the Lord Require of You?

“What does the Lord Require of You?”

Luke 14.25-33

When I was a student at Jesse M. Clark Junior High School – yes at that time it was called Junior High and not middle school, clothes were very important.  “Preppy” was the fashion. I had colorful Chino pants and button-down shirts with a matching belt and purse cover. My mother bought most of my clothes. She was probably thankful that I did not want to wear mini-skirts like girls wore in the 70’s. But as supportive as my mother was, she refused to buy me designer jeans – which were also critically important to my wardrobe. Calvin Kline, Jordache and Gloria Vanderbelt jeans were essential and there were no consignment stores then like there are now. All of the designer jeans were around $75 and that was a long time ago. — I was blessed to have several babysitting jobs at $1/hour and one family that paid me $2/hour. You can do the math. I had to babysit a LOT of hours to have enough money to buy a pair of designer jeans. I gave up many Friday and Saturday evenings to buy those silly jeans. But once I had them, I cherished them and took good care of them.

Most things in life – worth anything, will cost you something first. I am sure that many, if not all, of you have a story about something – a stereo, a new outfit, a piece of jewelry or a car – for which you saved up money for a long time. Purchasing things that you have worked hard to buy means a lot.

And it is not just things we buy – but also things that cost us a lot of time or energy. Those of you who sew know that your most prized pieces are the ones that were very difficult or took a very long time to make. The same is true for wood working or any craft or art. The things that are most meaningful and even pleasurable in our lives first cost us something in terms of money or time or effort.

And we calculate cost all the time – every day, I would bet. Will it cost more for me to do that or to have it done? We compare brands at the grocery store in order to get more for our money and we expect the food that costs more to taste better. We get several estimates on work that we need done. We interview candidates for any position. We calculate, “will the end justify the cost?” Don Gash is going to lead a meditation class for several weeks here at the church. And while there is no financial cost, there will be an expectation of effort and of time put in, there will be an expectation of commitment. If a person were only to come to the classes but never practiced meditation at home, that person would not get the full benefit of the class. If high school or college students attended class but never did the reading, the assignments or studied, they would most likely receive a failing grade. What you get out of life is directly proportional to what you put in – a good life will cost you something.

The word in our text today for “cost” in Greek appears only once in all of the New Testament – here. The fact that this word is only found here is significant and should cause us to sit up and pay attention. It means – what we give up to acquire, accomplish, maintain, or produce something. This “cost” requires sacrifice. —

One of my favorite Scripture passages comes from the Prophet Micah, chapter 6, verse 8: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That is the kind of quote that makes you feel good. I have heard it at marches and rallies. “What does the Lord require of you?—to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with my God.”

In reality, this is not an easy thing to do – justice is slippery and often hard to define and determine. God’s justice always leans in favor of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. To love mercy means to have compassion and forgiveness for everyone – not just people we like, and then there is humility – which we covered that in last week’s sermon, which goes way beyond the humility we have learned through Southern hospitality. But even though these requirements are not always easy, they sound nice in the Micah text, they have a nice ring to them. It is a good Scripture to contemplate and to pull out as needed.

What does the Lord require of you? Well, when the Lord is Jesus, it is to hate your family, carry your cross and give up all your possessions. This is not as nice of a Scripture – it is not one chanted at a march or rally. “What does the Lord require of you? to hate family, to carry the cross , to give up all possessions!”

Many years ago I attended a Sunday School class that looked at one of the passages where Jesus said to get rid of your possessions. The teacher told the class that Jesus did not really mean that. He does not really want us to give up our stuff. I don’t know if the teacher said that to soothe his own conscience as he accumulated more and more possessions or if it was so that people in the class would not leave the class, but, I am pretty certain, Jesus DID mean what he said.

Like my seminary professor said, “If you are comfortable and you are a Christian, you are not doing it right.”Jesus is known for pushing us, for stretching us and for confusing us. He always takes us beyond our comfort zone. He sometimes uses strong language to get his point across. “I come to bring division, not peace.”  “Whoever comes to me and does not hate [family] and self, cannot be my disciples.” “If you don’t carry the cross, you cannot be my disciple.” “If you do not give up all your possessions, you cannot be my disciple.” “Not, cannot, not, cannot, not, not, not, not, cannot, none” are the words Jesus uses to emphasize his point. Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote a famous book called “The Cost of Discipleship.” Following Christ is not something to be taken lightly, not an impulse decision. Following Jesus will COST you, if it doesn’t you are not doing it right.

Saeed Abedini was born and raised a Muslim in Iran. He married an American Muslim and they began to have visions of Jesus. They converted to Christianity attending and growing the house church movement in Iran. Saeed worked with the house churches which was not illegal but did not make the government happy. They moved to Idaho and started a family but continued to maintain ties in Iran. Saeed went back and worked with non-religious orphanages.  On September 26th of last year, he was arrested and charged with a threat to national security for his earlier work with house churches and sentenced to 8 years in prison. He is housed in Evin Prison known for its terrible conditions and for torture. He has been repeatedly asked to deny Christ in order to receive better treatment, which he has not done.

There is a cost to follow Jesus.

Arab Christian Leaders have come out strongly against a U.S. strike in Syria saying that it will result in the persecution of the 850,000 Christians there. Over 200,000 have already fled. Many Christians in this area still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus and they fear that if the rebel leaders rule the land, they will not be allowed the religious freedoms they now enjoy.

There is a cost to follow Jesus.

At many schools in Kentucky, children gather before school around the flagpole and join hands to pray, while other students walk by sneering and making jokes about them.

There is a cost to follow Jesus.

A family bows their heads to pray before eating in a restaurant while someone from the teenager’s school sits at the next table and is staring as they raise their heads after the prayer that went a too long.

There is a cost to follow Jesus.

At work, the boss makes a racist comment. If you say something, it could compromise your job. If you don’t…

There is a cost to follow Jesus

All your friends are making fun of the way the new kid at school who is from Korea talks and acts. If you say something, your friends might make fun of you! If you don’t…

There is a cost to follow Jesus.

There is a concept called True Cost or Full Cost Accounting. It refers to taking into account all  – environmental, social and economic costs and benefits for any decision or action.

Full cost accounting does not just look at the “so-called’ bottom line. It does not just look at how much you make minus how much you paid for the materials plus your time. Full Cost Accounting takes into account the natural resources used – like trees and water. It takes into account the pollution from the plants and transportation. It looks at how much the factory workers make per hour and their working conditions (especially oversees) and the fuel it took to get the item from the factory to the store.

We may be able to purchase that sofa or cell phone or pair of shoes for a really low price, but the full cost involves the resources of God’s creation and real people made in the image of God.

Many people believe that the cost of being a Christian is giving up Sunday mornings and a night here and there for a meeting for event. But the full cost accounting says the costs are much, much more! You may lose friends and family members. You may be made to feel very uncomfortable in situations. You may be persecuted or worse. And don’t forget that material things get in the way of giving yourself fully to Jesus.

This is the “fine print” text. This is the WARNING: following Jesus may be hazardous to your health. This is the Full Cost Accounting passage.

If you still want to be a Christian after today – Praise God!

But don’t say he didn’t warn you!