In today’s Gospel reading large crowds are following Jesus, but he attempts to discourage them from becoming disciples. They must give up family claims, he says, and even a claim to life itself. To impress the point he uses images of a builder and a king, each weighing carefully the cost of a course of action before beginning. The passage ends
So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. (Luke 14.33 NRSV)
What do these words mean for us now? Do we give up our families and our lives to follow Jesus? Do we give up our possessions, as some believers still do? Or were his warnings peculiar to his context? He was, after all, in his time literally calling people away from their families and possessions to follow him on the road. And how do we fit this call with the life setting of others in the Gospel, such as Mary and Martha, who retain their home and possessions but nonetheless are portrayed as genuine disciples of Jesus? I don’t know the answers to these questions, which crop up whenever I come across passages like this one.
Ready for a change from theology, I set down Paul Tillich in favor of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. At the start, Frodo gives up his home and possessions and sets out on a quest (as in the Gospel), only for him the goal is not to gain a treasure but to lose one, a precious ring he must destroy. Perhaps this story will bring light on the Gospel story.