Discipleship Is All About Sacrifice. True or False?

Discipleship to Jesus is the best investment opportunity any human being ever gets.

I‘ve co-written a book with Mike Breen that came out on May 6, 2014. It’s all about the economics of Jesus, and what we call the five capitals. It deals with how to invest our time, energy and money in the things that really matter. It’s called Oikonomics: How to Invest in Life’s Five Capitals the Way Jesus Did, and you can order it here.

One of the issues we deal with in the book is whether following Jesus as a disciple is really a “sacrifice.” At least since Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his classic work, The Cost of Discipleship, it seems we have tended to look at discipleship through the lens of sacrifice. We pay attention to what we are giving up to follow Jesus. We focus on what we are losing.

But Jesus rarely spoke this way about discipleship. Don’t get me wrong: He did call people to sacrifice. The disciples left their livelihood to follow him, and this appeared to be a standard call from Jesus (the rich young ruler comes to mind). But while he certainly did call people to sacrifice significantly to follow him, we notice that when Jesus talked about discipleship, he always spoke through the lens of investment.

He did call people to lay it all on the line to become his disciples, but he also promised that what initially looks and feels like a sacrifice will actually “pay off” in the end, which is essentially the same thing as making a good investment.

Think about these statements from Jesus through the lens of investment.

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39).

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matt 13:44).

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt 19:29).

What’s striking about these and other passages is the promise of a return on the investment. It’s not just a call to lose your life because it’s the “right thing to do” or because it’s what God wants; it’s a promise that you’ll actually find real life if you will only let go of the old one! It’s the deal of a lifetime! A free upgrade! A very good investment.

As Dallas Willard has said, “The cost of non-discipleship is much higher than the cost of discipleship. Discipleship is a bargain.” In other words, Jesus isn’t talking about making a sacrifice because it’s the right thing to do, he’s talking about a sacrifice that actually becomes an investment that yields a return.

Pages: 1 2

Ben Sternke
Ben is a husband of one, a father of four, and is currently planting a network of missional communities in Fort Wayne, Indiana.