A Reflection on Luke 14:25-33
The United Methodist Men meet for breakfast every Tuesday morning at 7am. We eat, share prayer needs, and then read through the lectionary lessons for the coming Sunday. The lectionary has an Old Testament reading, a psalm reading, a reading from the New Testament letters and a Gospel reading. Every Tuesday after the Gospel reading several of the men will say, “Amen.” Not this past Tuesday. After the Gospel reading three or four of the guys said, “whoa, that’s a hard reading.”
Luke 14:25-33 is a challenging read. Yet it is not any more challenging than most of the other sayings of Jesus. This one just seems so blatant. There is no parable, metaphor, or proverb to soften the blow. The reality is that like everything that Jesus said, this statement is also a metaphor. When we dive into the metaphor, the saying does not get any easier, but it does open a path in our lives to the pure freedom in this lifetime that Jesus offers.
To begin with, the word Miseo which is translated as “hate,” also means “to turn away from.” This is exactly what Mark tells us that Jesus says in his opening words of ministry. “Metanoia! And believe the good news!” Which literally means “change the way you think and believe the good news.” The main intention of Jesus’ ministry is to teach us a new way to see, to understand, and therefore to live. We are called to turn away from our old ways of being. In Luke 14, Jesus continues this message by saying that we need to turn away from or let go of our attachments. We need to cut the ropes that are tied to our beliefs and possessions. And Yes, if we are going to grow up, we need to cut the attachments to our parents.
In much of the coaching work that I do, unhealthy attachments to parents is often an issue; even for people well into retirement age! If we do not do the hard work of self-development, we allow attachments to our parents to have serious impacts on our lives. I’m 52 years old, and still feel a strong desire to meet my dad’s expectations of me. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? Jesus is telling us that our spiritual development means cutting those ropes.
In the same exact way, our attachments to beliefs and things can have ruinous affects on our lives. Far too often we hold onto beliefs that no longer work because they still give us a sense of identity or offer a foundation of sorts. For example, many people hate the idea that global warming is real because they associate global warming with people who have very different world views. Ultimately this issue is not about science. It is about identity. Having to admit that global warming is real would mean having to admit we were wrong, and that slashes at our identity. The earth is going to force us to change our beliefs, and Jesus is asking, “Why possess beliefs that end up possessing you? Let go of what is no longer working so that you can be free. So what if you have change? THAT is what life is all about! We can only grow by changing.”
Possessions like beliefs far too often end up possessing us. The more we have, the more we fear losing what we have. The more we have the more it costs to hold that space. And that cost is a prime example of our possessions possessing us. Freedom comes from not being possessed.
There are three simple questions that can lead to deep spiritual revelations in our lives. These are the questions designed to help us understand what is holding us back, possessing us, keeping us from becoming who Jesus desires for us to be.
- What are we afraid of? This fear is often a clue to what we need to address, let go of, or change in our lives. Am I afraid of disappointing my dad? Perhaps I have some work to do there.
- What makes me angry? Anger is a sign of possession. It is an emotion that often indicates lack of control. It controls us actually. Learning how to let go of issues that cause anger is a required step in spiritual maturity.
- What makes me jealous? This is also an indication that we are letting something possess us. What ever we are jealous about is probably something that needs to be removed from our lives.
Luke 14:25-33 is a hard statement, but it is really no different than the sermon on the mount in Matthew’s Gospel or the sermon on the plain in Luke’s Gospel. It is virtually identical to the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus in John 3. To be born again means the old self must die. Per Mark, the way we used to think must go if we are going to think and see like Jesus. Cutting the ropes that bind is not easy, but the freedom that awaits is far greater than the pain of rebirth.
May you keep your eyes fixed upon that freedom.