The two small parables of the builder and the king is considered being a part of the category of the cost of discipleship and what it costs to follow Jesus. Although there is some legitimacy to these claims, if we only look at the parables this way, we miss a colossal point of Jesus’ central message. This parable is an offering of the kingdom and the decision we have to make about following Jesus by his invitation. Let’s dive into this parable more as we look at what this parable is all about.
These parables in Luke come right after the parable of the banquet and they take place in Luke 14:25-35. The pattern that Jesus follows in this section is one that a good teacher would have. He introduces the section (vv.26-27), tells two examples (vv.28-32), and concludes with teaching (vv33-35). Most scholars and commentators will focus on the cost of being a disciple of Jesus and while there is some thought to this argument, it is not the main case.
Jesus tells two parables. The first is of a builder who should plan out the cost to build a tower because it would be a shame to start building and run out of money and have a half-completed job. The second is of a king who is waging war against another king and needs to make sure he has the resources to fight. Otherwise, he needs to make peace with the king to avoid destruction. Jesus then ends the parables with a warning that anyone who does not give up everything can’t be his disciple. However, a question arises from this point. The parables weren’t about sacrificing everything, they were about planning and having wisdom. So why put this type of warning here?
We must focus on the true point of this parable which is the decision one must make when we are invited into the kingdom of God. Let’s think about this parable in context. In the parable of the great banquet just before this, those who had been invited were not prepared to come and made excuses. This lack of planning had caused them to reject the invitation of the kingdom. Similarly, those who do plan, like the ones in this parable, are considered wise and they will be not be shamed for not being prepared. These three parables are connected. To follow Jesus and accept the invitation of the kingdom, we must be prepared to know what that really means. We must make sure we know what it means to accept Jesus and the effect it will have on our lives.
The two parables follow a similar literary pattern but are not the same. Think of the implications of each parable. The man who doesn’t build the tower brings shame to himself. The king who unwisely prepares for battle will bring devastation and destruction to countless lives, the consequence is much greater. At first glance, the warning Jesus leaves seems peculiar but in light of the parables and context it makes perfect sense.
The builder and the king had to plan to make the wisest decision. Likewise, being a disciple of Jesus will take some thinking and reflection. There is a cost of being a disciple and Jesus says it will cost “everything”. This means that our lives will be changed after receiving Jesus because our lives will be for Him and not ourselves. Just as these two parable characters would not make a foolish decision, we must not make a foolish decision also to reject Jesus and not reflect on the invitation.