The Bible

 

Luke 14

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1 And it came to pass, when he went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a sabbath to eat bread, that they were watching him.

2 And behold, there was before him a certain man that had the dropsy.

3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?

4 But they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go.

5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a well, and will not straightway draw him up on a sabbath day?

6 And they could not answer again unto these things.

7 And he spake a parable unto those that were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief seats; saying unto them,

8 When thou art bidden of any man to a marriage feast, sit not down in the chief seat; lest haply a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him,

9 and he that bade thee and him shall come and say to thee, Give this man place; and then thou shalt begin with shame to take the lowest place.

10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest place; that when he that hath bidden thee cometh, he may say to thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have glory in the presence of all that sit at meat with thee.

11 For everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

12 And he said to him also that had bidden him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.

13 But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:

14 and thou shalt be blessed; because they have not [wherewith] to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just.

15 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

16 But he said unto him, A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many:

17 and he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for [all] things are now ready.

18 And they all with one [consent] began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused.

19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused.

20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21 And the servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame.

22 And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain [them] to come in, that my house may be filled.

24 For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.

25 Now there went with him great multitudes: and he turned, and said unto them,

26 If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

27 Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have [wherewith] to complete it?

29 Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him,

30 saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

31 Or what king, as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and asketh conditions of peace.

33 So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

34 Salt therefore is good: but if even the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?

35 It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill: [men] cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

  

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Luke 14

     

By Ray and Star Silverman

Receiving the Lord’s Dinner Invitation

1. And it came to pass as He came into the house of one of the ruling Pharisees to eat bread on a Sabbath, they also watched Him closely.

2. And behold, there was a certain man with dropsy in front of Him.

3. And Jesus answering said to the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it permitted to cure on the Sabbath?”

4. And they were quiet; and taking [hold] [of him], He healed him and sent [him] away.

5. And answering He said to them, “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull it out on the day of the Sabbath?”

6. And they were not able to answer Him again as to these things.


The previous episode ended with the words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” In the literal sense, this refers to the Lord’s coming into Jerusalem to declare Himself to be king. More deeply, however, this also refers to the Lord’s coming into our lives as the ruler of our inner world, a mighty king who rules over our lower desires, and gives us the divine law as a guide for our lives.

The simple truth is that God is perpetually striving to enter our understanding (signified by “Jerusalem”) with comforting, reassuring truths. That is why He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” In other words, God is continually desiring to feed us with His love and truth, even as a mother bird instinctively feeds her young—but we are not willing. 1

It is because of our unwillingness that Jesus says, “See! Your house is left to you desolate.” In the language of sacred symbolism, a “house” refers to the human mind; it is left desolate whenever God is not received. But Jesus never abandons us, and never leaves us in desolation. Even though we may stubbornly refuse to admit Him “who comes in the name of the Lord,” He keeps showing up in our lives, just as He keeps showing up in the lives of the scribes and Pharisees. He keeps knocking on the door of our “house”—our mind—ready to come in, ready to break bread with us, ready to share the goodness and truth He yearns to give us.

It is for this reason that the next chapter begins with the words, “Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely” (Luke 14:1). As we have seen before, “they watched Him closely” not because they want to learn from Him, but because they want to catch Him in some violation of Mosaic law. It’s clear that as far as the Pharisees are concerned, this is not going to be just another meal; it’s going to be another opportunity for them to find fault with Jesus.

Healing dropsy

As the episode begins, we learn that there is a man at the meal who suffers from a condition called “dropsy.” This is an old medical term for any abnormal swelling caused by the build up and retention of fluid in the body. Sometimes known as “edema,” it describes a medical condition in which fluid is trapped in body tissue and cannot escape. While dropsy normally affects the skin, it can also affect the eyes, heart, lungs, and brain. The excessive build-up of fluid in these areas can lead to blindness, difficulty breathing, heart-failure, and even death. “Dropsy,” then, or the body’s abnormal retention of water, can be life-threatening.

Spiritually seen, especially in the context of the preceding chapter, the abnormal retention of water in the body relates to the abnormal retention of truth in the mind. Water, as we know, corresponds to truth. What water does for the body truth does for the mind. Water, however, is not taken in merely to be stored up; rather, it is taken in for the physical uses that the body performs.

Similarly, truth is not taken in merely to be stored up, but rather to be put to use. Like a fig tree that is filled with leaves but does not bear fruit, a person who is “filled with truth” but who does not perform useful service through that truth, suffers from “spiritual dropsy.” The truth is, so to speak, “trapped” in the person’s mind and prevented from performing its use. In this way, truth, which is intended to serve as a healthy guide for doing good becomes perverted into something that can not only damage but eventually destroy a person’s spiritual life. Truth is meant for use. 2

This, then, is the spiritual meaning of the illness called “dropsy,” or as it is written in Greek, ὑδρωπικὸς (hydrōpikos) which means, literally, “full of water.” Biblical commentators suggest that the Pharisees invited the man with dropsy to the sabbath meal with a specific purpose in mind. They were eager to test Jesus. They wanted to see if Jesus would perform another healing miracle on the Sabbath. They may have been wondering, Will Jesus once again violate Mosaic law by working on the Sabbath? After all, He just healed a woman who couldn’t straighten up. Is He about to do something similar—and on the Sabbath no less? Let’s see if we can catch Him in the act and condemn Him for violating the Sabbath commandment.

Fully aware that the lawyers and Pharisees are closely watching Him, ready to condemn Him, Jesus first questions them about the Sabbath. He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Luke 14:2). While it is true that the Hebrew scriptures forbade working on the Sabbath, there was no specific law that forbade healing on the Sabbath. Most people knew, intuitively, that animals still needed to be fed on the Sabbath, children needed to be cared for, and an injured person needed to be helped. Therefore, the lawyers and Pharisees do not respond to Jesus’ question. While they remain silent, Jesus, takes hold of the man with dropsy, heals him, and sends him on his way (Luke 14:3-4). Then, turning to the lawyers and Pharisees, Jesus asks, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5).

The mention of the donkey and the ox brings to mind a similar example given just a few verses earlier: “Does each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Luke 13:15). Loosing the donkey and ox from the stall in order to water it refers to the basic biological need for water as a sustainer of physical life. More deeply, this image corresponds to the basic spiritual need for truth as a sustainer of spiritual life. But in the case of the man with edema, the problem is too much water—a massive accumulation of fluid in the body.

Spiritually, an excess of truth in our minds, is a sort of “spiritual swelling” which results when truth is merely stored up and not put to use. Instead of being used for spiritual health it becomes a source of spiritual harm. The truth of the Lord’s Word is intended to teach us how to do good for others. But when it serves to merely swell our egos, enhance our reputations, accumulate wealth, its fundamental use has been perverted. 3

In healing the man with dropsy, Jesus is giving the scribes and Pharisees an important lesson about how to rightly interpret God’s law concerning the Sabbath. At the same time, He is also giving them a deeper lesson about the importance of humility which is the opposite of excessive pride. But they are not yet able or willing to understand Jesus’ teaching. The best that they can do is simply not answer. Therefore, it is written “They could not answer Him regarding these things” (Luke 14:6).

Responsibilities of the Dinner Guest

7. And He spoke a parable to those who were invited when He observed how they chose out the first places to recline, saying to them,

8. “When thou art invited by anyone to a wedding, recline not in the first places to recline, lest [one] more honorable than thou be invited by him,

9. And he that called thee and him, coming, shall say to thee, ‘Give this [man] a place’; and then thou begin with shame to have the last place.

10. But when thou art invited, go recline in the last place, that when he that invited thee comes, he may say to thee,’ Friend, go up higher.’ Then shalt thou have glory before those that sit with thee.

11. For everyone that exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.”


The object lesson, in which Jesus heals the man of dropsy, has little effect on the lawyers and Pharisees. On the literal level, He is instructing them about the Sabbath, showing them that their extreme strictness—even to forbid healing—is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the commandments. More deeply, the object lesson is about excessive pride and the exaggerated states of self-importance that result from having a knowledge of truth without a desire to put it into one’s life. Their only response is silence.

Jesus, however, is undeterred by their lack of response. Instead, He goes on to give them another, more obvious lesson. Noting how the people who have come to dine at the Pharisee’s house have chosen the best places for themselves at the table, He gives them some practical advice: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast,” He explains, “do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place” (Luke 14:9).

This appears to be a straightforward, and practical lesson. The scribes and Pharisees, who pride themselves on their learning, and who love seats of honor, might be interested in advice about how to avoid shame. After all, it is in their self-interest to guard their reputations and avoid public embarrassment. They would also be interested in ways they could advance their reputation in the eyes of others. Therefore, Jesus tells them how to do this: “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest places, so that when he who invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’” (Luke 14:10). Note how Jesus appeals to their love of having a good reputation, honor, and glory: “Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” 4

We would be mistaken, however, to conclude that Jesus is merely giving lessons in how to protect and promote one’s reputation. The kingdom of heaven is not about social climbing; it’s about humbly receiving what flows in from God. It’s about removing ourselves from excessive pride, recognizing our lowliness, and allowing ourselves to be lifted up by God. That’s why Jesus deepens the lesson by adding this eternal truth: “Whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). 5

Responsibilities of the Host

12. And He said also to him that invited Him, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brothers, nor thy kinsfolk, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite thee back, and a recompense be made thee.

13. But when thou makest a reception, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind;

14. And thou shalt be happy, for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”


Having dealt with the responsibilities of the dinner guest, Jesus now addresses the responsibilities of the dinner host. He says, “When you give a dinner, or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they invite you back and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” (Luke 14:12-13). Once again, Jesus is turning upside-down the customs and practices of His day. It was almost unthinkable to invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind—these were the social outcasts, the ones purportedly despised by God, and therefore punished with poverty and physical disability. To associate with them, and especially to eat a meal with them, would be to risk contamination.

But Jesus knew this was a false belief and an evil practice. He knew that wealth and poverty were not signs of favor or disfavor with God. Similarly, He knew that physical health and physical affliction were not blessings or curses from God. While it is true that disease can have a spiritual origin, it does not follow that people who are afflicted by diseases have brought those diseases upon themselves. Nor does it follow that God punishes people by cursing them with poverty, disease, and affliction as penalties for their sin. God never punishes and never casts anyone into hell. On the contrary, God is love itself, wisdom itself, and mercy itself. He intends nothing but good, and wills only good for everyone. 6

On one level, inviting “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” to the feast might seem to flagrantly defy the social customs and mistaken religious beliefs of the day. In reality, it is to practice true benevolence and inclusiveness, welcoming all people to the table, regardless of their social status or physical condition. More deeply, the “poor, maimed, lame, and blind” represent the various spiritual disabilities that are prevalent among people who lack an understanding of spiritual truth and the power to live according to that truth. This also applies to the places within ourselves that are in spiritual need. These are the people whom the host should invite to supper. 7

And for those who do so, thinking of gaining nothing in return, there will be a great blessing. As it is written, “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be paid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). The idea here is that true heavenly joy is in serving others without any thought of reward or gain. 8

Rejecting God’s Invitation

15. And when one of those that sat with [Him] heard these things, he said to Him, “Happy [is] he that eats bread in the kingdom of God.”

16. And He said to him, “A certain man made a great supper, and invited many.

17. And he sent his servant at the hour of supper to say to those that were invited, ‘Come, for all things are already prepared.’

18. And they all as one began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I have the necessity to go out and see it; I beseech thee, have me excused.’

19. And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to test them; I beseech thee, have me excused.’

20. And another said, ‘I have wedded a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’

21. And that servant, having come, reported these things to his lord. Then the householder, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’

22. And the servant said, ‘Lord, it is done as thou hast ordered, and there are still places.’

23. And the lord said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain [them] to come in, that my house may be filled.

24. For I say to you that none of those men that were invited shall taste of my supper.’”


When Jesus speaks about the duties of the host, one of the people sitting at the table seems to understand, for he cries out, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15). The “bread” that we shall eat there, of course, is not physical bread—but rather the bread which comes from heaven, the deep feelings of love that feed our spirit, and the refreshing truth that quenches our spiritual thirst. These are the feelings and thoughts that flow in from God whenever we are engaged in unselfish service. This differs greatly from having a dinner to impress friends or curry the favor of influential people. This is the dinner that is provided for the spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind states within us. It is a heavenly feast in which we “eat bread” in the kingdom of God. 9

In this parable, God is the host for the great supper, and each of us is an invited guest. Jesus puts it like this: “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many.” The “great supper” is the opportunity to receive the goodness and truth that the Lord freely offers to everyone. This is represented by the man telling his servant to go out and say to the invited guests, “Come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). The “servant” is the truth of God’s Word. It is a constant invitation to feast on God’s love and drink in God’s truth as one would eat and drink at a wedding celebration. 10

Unfortunately, people do not always accept the invitation. Some, like the person who had just bought a piece of land, politely ask to be excused. He says, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go see it. Please excuse me” (Luke 14:18). The second person makes a similar request, saying, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. Please excuse me” (Luke 14:19). While they are polite, their excuses seem flimsy. After all, who would buy land without seeing it or oxen without first testing them? On the literal level, then, this sounds like mere excuse-making—the shallow justifications we concoct to avoid responding to God’s call.

We come now to the third person. He also cannot accept the man’s invitation, but he is less polite. He does not even ask to be excused. He merely says, “I have wedded a woman, and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:20). At first glance, this seems to be a fairly acceptable excuse. After all, it could be viewed as a good thing to focus attention on one’s wife, to look after her needs, and to be there to support her. But notice how the master responds when the servant comes back and reports on the refusals to accept his invitation. As it is written, “Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind’” (Luke 14:21).

Why would the master be angry? For some, this is an image of God’s anger with us for not accepting His personal invitation to come to the great feast. Seen from the perspective of our own humanity, it can be very upsetting to have prepared a great feast, and then, after having made everything ready, the invited guests decide not to come. We might even be angry. Seen merely at this level, the parable could have a powerful impact, warning people to beware the wrath of God if they do not respond to His invitation. This is what it means to understand scripture according to our own state of consciousness—a state in which we see God as capable of anger. The truth is, however, that God is never angry. No matter how often we refuse His invitation, He never ceases to offer it. The anger that is attributed to God is a projection of our own human states. People see God according to the state of their own consciousness. 11

It is important to understand the different ways we have seen God, at different times in our lives, and at different eras in the advancement of humanity. Otherwise, we might come away from the Word with an understanding that is written for people who are unable to lift their minds above the idea of an angry father—a father who would be so incensed by a refusal to attend his dinner that he would say, “None of these men who were invited shall taste my supper” (Luke 14:24). In spiritual reality, it is our own refusal to accept God’s invitation that shuts us out of the rich banquet He has prepared for us. Therefore, this parable is not about “Divine anger”—there is no such thing; it is, rather, about our refusal to receive the love and wisdom that the Lord desires to share with us. 12

Three types of refusal

We also need to take a deeper look at the three types of refusal that are given. Each refusal pictures a particular way in which we go about refusing God’s invitation to come to the feast He has provided for us. In the first example, the man says that he has just bought a field and wants to go “see it.” The word “see” suggests that this excuse relates to the understanding. More specifically, it is about a tendency in each of us to be preoccupied with our own ideas, our own insights, and our own thoughts about spiritual reality. Sometimes referred to as “the pride of self-intellect,” this tendency prides itself on being able to see what’s true without the aid of revelation. When we are in this frame of mind, we have “bought into” our own way of seeing things and believe that the way we see things is true. Therefore, there is no need for the Word of God, and no time for biblical study. Why bother? says this mindset. I can find all the answers I need within myself. This is the biblical equivalent of these words from the Hebrew scriptures: “In his pride the wicked man does not seek the Lord; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalms 10:4).

When this is the case, there is no desire to listen to what God has to say or to accept His invitation. Believing that all answers can be found within oneself, there is no need for revelation. This, then, is the “intellectual” denial of God; we would rather “see” for ourselves than to trust in what God has revealed in His Word. This is the person who says, “I have bought a piece of ground and must go and see it. Please excuse me” 13

The second person asks to be excused because he has just bought “five yoke of oxen.” In the Word, “oxen” represent our natural affections. These are the affections that plod along, head down, like the ox, faithfully doing its job, hauling logs, plowing fields, pulling carts, while being unaware of anything higher than natural charity. People like this believe in doing good, not because the Lord teaches so, but simply because they have an inherited inclination to do what is good. They have, so to speak, “bought into” the idea that they are naturally good and therefore have no need of God.

When we believe that the good we do is from ourselves rather than from the Lord, we will have little interest in going to the Lord for spiritual nourishment. Instead, we will decline the Lord’s invitation, saying in our hearts, I’m basically a good person, and I have all the power I need to do good. Therefore, I have no need for God. In the parable, this is the person who says, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. Please excuse me.” 14

To sum up the first two refusals: The man who wanted to “see the field” represents self-intellect, the stubborn belief that we can think for ourselves without instruction from God’s Word. The man who wanted to go and “test the five yoke of oxen” represents the part of us that believes that we are basically good and can do everything, just fine, under our own power. Taken together, these two parts of the human mind represent the pride of self-intellect and the belief in one’s own power. This illusion of self-sufficiency leads to the idea that there is no need for God in one’s life. When this is the case, God’s invitation to come to the table is declined.

We come now to the third person whose excuse is that he has “wedded a woman.” This person’s excuse represents the part of us that is so “wedded” to our beliefs and attitudes that we don’t even bother with asking politely to be excused. Instead of saying, “Please excuse me,” this part of our mind says, quite bluntly, “I cannot come.” This represents the worst of the three refusals. When both the intellect and the will are convinced that they have no need for God, an “infernal marriage” of falsity and evil takes place. We have become confirmed in our belief that we can know truth without revelation and that we can be good without God. In the language of sacred scripture, this is represented in the words of the third person who says, ““I have wedded a woman, and therefore I cannot come.” 15

These three kinds of refusal represent the various ways we refuse to accept the Lord’s invitation to come to His table for spiritual nourishment. Whether it is intellectual arrogance (I can figure this out for myself) or belief in our own goodness (I can do all things by myself), or the infernal marriage of falsity and evil within us, we will have no reason or desire to accept the Lord’s invitation. Whenever this happens, it is not the Lord’s fault, but our own, if we fail to taste the joys of heavenly life. This, then, is what is meant in the closing words of this parable when Jesus says, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” (Luke 14:24). The Lord has not rejected them; they have freely chosen to reject the Lord. 16

On Becoming a Disciple

25. And many crowds went with Him, and turning He said to them,

26. “If anyone come to Me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple.

27. And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.

28. For which of you that wills to build a tower sits not [down] first and counts the cost, whether he has [‘sufficient] to complete [it]?

29. Lest when he has placed the foundation and is not able to finish, all who behold begin to mock him,

30. Saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’

31. Or what king, going to wage war with another king, sits not [down] first and consults whether it be possible with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand?

32. Otherwise, while he is yet far away, he sends an embassy, and asks for peace.

33. So, therefore, any of you who takes not leave of all his own belongings, he cannot be My disciple.

34. Salt [is] good, but if the salt become saltless, with what shall it be seasoned?

35. It is suited neither for the earth nor for the dunghill; [and] they cast it out. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The previous episode, which we titled, “Responsibilities of the Host,” began by describing whom the host should invite to dinner. But as we have seen, this episode involves much more than a discourse on table etiquette, or a plea for being inclusive as we consider our circle of friends. It calls us to remember the banquet which God has provided for us and not to neglect it. It calls us to beware of getting so caught up in our own ideas, and our own desires—however well intended—that we forget about our most important friend, the One who gives us the ability to think and the power to do.

In fact, as the narrative continues, Jesus makes it abundantly clear just how important it is to keep God in mind as our highest priority. As Jesus puts it, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

Jesus is here emphasizing how important it is for us to separate from anything that is evil and false in our lives, especially those evils that we have come into through heredity (father and mother) or have acquired through the choices we have made in this world. If we have known that something is wrong and have done it anyway, we have, so to speak become “wedded ” to it. It has become, spiritually speaking, our “wife.” Out of that infernal marriage come further evils and falsities, represented by “children.” All of this, and everything related to it (“brothers” and “sisters)” must be hated. In fact, Jesus says that we must even “hate our own life.” This is not about hating ourselves; rather, it’s about hating those aspects of ourself that are unwilling to follow God. 17

This is what it means to be a true disciple of God. It is the willingness to forsake every form of selfish love and to fight against our own evils. This is our “cross.” And this is what Jesus means when He says, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Discipleship requires total devotion and total sacrifice. We cannot simply say that we want to be a disciple without being willing to follow through. In other words, we must begin our spiritual journey with a firm commitment to finishing it. As Jesus puts it, “For which of you intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Luke 14:28). Notice that the emphasis here is not just on starting but also on finishing. Similarly, Jesus says, “What king going to war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31).

At first glance, the parable about building a tower and the parable about going to war seem to be no more than interesting comparisons to drive home the point about dedicated discipleship. More interiorly, however, they relate to the two parts of the human mind. The “tower” relates to the intellectual faculty. The higher the tower, the more we can see. Therefore, this part of the two parable-set is about taking the time to study God’s Word in an intellectual effort to elevate our understanding and sharpen our spiritual faculties. If we are serious about fighting and overcoming the heredity evils that we have acquired and spawned, we must arm ourselves with the spiritual truths and the heightened understanding we will need in that battle. 18

The next parable, closely allied to the first, speaks of the effort on the part of our will to enter the battle, even if it looks like the odds are overwhelming—twenty thousand against us, and ten thousand for us. The one king who is going to war with ten thousand at his side represents truth. The other king, who opposes him with twenty thousand at his side, represents falsity. It appears as though it is going to be a tough battle. Perhaps we will not have the courage to fight. Instead, “while the other is still a great way off” we may choose to send “a delegation and ask conditions of peace” (Luke 14:32).

While this might sometimes be advisable on the natural plane of our lives, it is never advisable on the spiritual plane. On that level, where the war is against hell itself, there is no compromise, and no room for negotiation. Alcoholics must never negotiate with the demons that drive them to drink. Adulterers must not bargain with the demons that seduce them into adultery. The chronic liar and the habitual thief must not broker deals with the demons that drive them to lie, cheat and steal. No delegation sent to these demons, asking for conditions of peace, can ever be successful. That’s why we must not avoid this battle.

Nor can we wage combat in a haphazard or partially committed manner. It must be an all-out effort. Just as God requires no less than a one hundred percent commitment from us, we too must make a one hundred percent commitment to cast out everything that is evil and false within us. We cannot “make peace” with our own evils. We must separate from them completely. We must turn away from every shred of selfishness, ego, and conceit. As Jesus puts it, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

The truth is that help is always on our side. No matter how overwhelmed we might feel, God is there to sustain and protect us. In this regard, the number “ten thousand” represents every state of good and truth that God has laid up within us from the moment of our birth, and throughout our lives. These states, which are called “remains of good and truth” are God’s presence with us. They are being laid up in us continually as we are gradually prepared to receive what flows in from the Lord. Every true thought that has ever come to us and every loving emotion we have ever felt is part of this divine arsenal that the Lord has been building within us. Through this divine arsenal of goodness and truth the Lord fights for us against the evils and falsities that assail us—even when the odds appear to be overwhelming. 19

If we do not take up the struggle, if we choose to diminish, ignore, justify or excuse our evils, we become like tasteless salt. We may have plenty of truth, but if we have no desire to use that truth for self-examination and useful service, we are useless. As Jesus puts it, “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” (Luke 14:34). Jesus could not be more forceful in His use of language here. To be a disciple we must be willing to make a total commitment; we must be willing to surrender all selfish attachments, love God above all, and love our neighbor as ourselves. A partial commitment is useless. It is good for nothing, or as Jesus puts it: “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out” (Luke 14:35). 20

These are powerful words. The call to one hundred percent commitment allows for nothing in between. One sometimes wonders whether this is asking too much of mere human beings who try and falter and try again. But God is continually there extending His invitation of support, and assuring us that no battle is too great for Him, and no situation in our lives, no matter how overwhelming it may seem to us, is too much for Him.

In His great mercy, God equips us for every battle. He builds the tower—though we think we are doing it; and He wages the combat—though it feels as though the effort is all our own. This is the continual message of the Lord’s Word. It is a spoken invitation, extended to everyone: “Come to the great supper. Everything is ready.” This is Jesus Himself reaching out with His message of love to all who are willing to hear it. “Come to the great supper,” He says. “Come and dine with Me.”

And so, this episode closes with a final invitation. It is an invitation to hear the Word of the Lord calling us to a new life of love, gratitude, and selfless service. It is an invitation to “come up higher.” As Jesus puts it in the closing words of this episode, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:35).

A practical application

Sometimes it may seem that the odds against us are overwhelming. It’s as if we are among the ten thousand who must go into battle against twenty thousand. But it’s reassuring to know that the Lord is on our side, and that He has perfectly equipped us for any battle we must face. Every truth we have learned with affection and every loving experience we have ever had will become the means through which the Lord will win every battle for us. At such times, it might be useful to remember this verse from the Hebrew scriptures: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalms 23:5) and combine it with the Lord’s words in this episode, “Come and dine with Me.” 21

Footnotes:

1True Christian Religion 44: “The sphere of Divine Love affects not only the good, but also the evil, and not only people but also birds and beasts of every kind. What else does a mother think about when she has brought forth her child than uniting herself with it, as it were, and providing for its good? What other concern has a bird, when she has hatched her young from the egg, than to cherish them under her wings, and through their little mouths put food into their throats?”

2Apocalypse Explained 275:6 “In the Word, ‘rivers of living water’ and ‘living springs of water’ stand for truths which are derived from the Lord…. The good of love and charity which comes solely from the Lord is the life of truth. The expression ‘he who thirsts’ is used to describe a person who is stirred by a love and affection for truth; no other can so thirst.”

3Arcana Coelestia 9086: “Healings were performed by the Lord on the Sabbath day, because ‘healing’ involved the healing of the spiritual life; and the disease of dropsy signified the perversion of truth and good. Thus, the ‘healing’ [of the man with dropsy] involved the amendment and restoration of perverted truth.”

4Arcana Coelestia 3963: “Their affection of truth is not from the Lord, but from themselves; for they have regard to themselves, to the intent that by the knowledges of truth they may gain reputation, and thereby honors and wealth; but they have no regard to the church, nor to the Lord’s kingdom, and still less to the Lord.”

5Arcana Coelestia 1306: “The worship of self exists when a person exalts oneself above others even to the point of being worshiped. And, therefore, the love of self, which is arrogance and pride, is called ‘height,’ ‘loftiness,’ and ‘being lifted up;’ and is described by all things that are high. As in Isaiah: ‘The eyes of man’s pride shall be humbled, and the loftiness of men shall be brought low, and Jehovah Himself alone shall be exalted in that day.’”

6Heaven and Hell 545: “An opinion has prevailed with some that God turns away His face from people, rejects them from Himself, casts them into hell, and is angry with them on account of their evil; and with some the opinion goes further, that God punishes them and does evil to them. They confirm themselves in this opinion from the sense of the letter of the Word, where similar things are said, not knowing that the spiritual sense of the Word … teaches otherwise, namely, that God never turns away His face from anyone, and never rejects anyone from Himself; that He casts no one into hell and is angry with no one.”

7Arcana Coelestia 4302: “The Ancient Church distinguished the neighbor or neighbors to whom they were to perform charitable works into different categories. Some they called the ‘maimed,’ others the ‘lame,’ some the ‘blind,’ and others the ‘deaf,’ by which they meant those who were spiritually such…. These terms referred to those who were such so far as truth and good were concerned, who were to be furnished with whatever was appropriate for their [spiritual] needs.” See also Arcana Coelestia 9042: “In the Word, ‘the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind’ refers to people who were such in regard to their faith but who had, nevertheless, led good lives…. These were the gentiles who were to be taught about the Lord’s kingdom, because they were, as yet, uninformed.”

8Arcana Coelestia 6388:1,2: “People with whom genuine mutual love resides enter into delight and blessedness when they perform good deeds to their neighbor. There is nothing they desire more. That delight and blessedness is what is meant in the Word by ‘reward,’ for delight or blessedness is the reward, and in the next life it becomes the joy and happiness that is experienced in heaven, and so becomes for those people heaven itself…. But that happiness departs the moment they think of reward, for the thought of reward, even though they already have the true reward, renders that love impure and corrupts it. The reason for this is that they are now thinking about themselves, not about their neighbor.”

9Arcana Coelestia 3832: “Everyone may see that by ‘sitting down, eating and drinking in the Lord’s kingdom,’ is not signified sitting down, eating, and drinking; but something which exists in that kingdom, and is the appropriation of the good of love and the truth of faith; thus it signifies that which is called spiritual and celestial food.”

10Apocalypse Explained 316:8: “In the Word, the term ‘servant’ is not a servant in the usual sense, but it refers to whatever serves. It is said that truth ‘serves’ because truth serves good for use, and also for power.”

11Arcana Coelestia 3131:3: “It is a divine truth that the Lord is never angry, never punishes anyone, still less does evil to anyone, and that from the Lord there never comes anything but good. Nevertheless, in its earliest stages this truth takes the form that the Lord is angry when anyone sins, and that therefore the Lord punishes…. But as people advance from childhood, grow up, and mature in judgment, they put off that which once appeared to them to be truth, and gradually accept the real truth, namely that the Lord is never angry, that He does not punish, and still less does He do what is evil. In this way, by means of apparent truth, a person is introduced into actual truth.” See also Arcana Coelestia 6832: “When the Lord appears to a person, He appears according to quality of that person. This is because an individual cannot receive the Divine in any other way than in a way suited to the kind of person one is.”

12Arcana Coelestia 5798:6: “Moreover the simple within the church, from the appearance apprehend no otherwise than that God is angry when anyone does evil. Yet everyone who reflects can see that there is nothing of anger, still less of fury, with Jehovah or the Lord; for He is mercy itself and good itself, and is infinitely above willing evil to anyone. Neither does a person possessing charity towards the neighbor do evil to anyone; and as this is true of every angel, how much more must it be true of the Lord Himself?”

13Arcana Coelestia 8035: “People who are in the genuine affection of charity and faith believe that from themselves they do not desire anything good, and that from themselves they do not understand anything true; but that the will of good and the understanding of truth are from the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 8636: “People cannot be regenerated unless they know the things that compose the new life, that is, spiritual life…. Furthermore, people cannot know these things by themselves…. They must learn these things from revelation.”

14Apocalypse Explained 548:5: “In the Word, ‘oxen’ signify natural affections, and ‘five yoke of oxen’ signify all those affections or desires that lead away from heaven. Spiritual nourishment or instruction are signified by ‘the great supper’ to which they were invited.” See also Arcana Coelestia 5032:4: “Those who are in natural good only … believe, they had done what is good equally as well as others. But they were told that they had done what is good only as gentle animals devoid of reason might do it, and had not been solicitous about any good or truth of the church; and that as for this reason they have not in the internal man any receptacle for good and truth. Therefore, they cannot be defended by the angels. They are also told that they had done many evils under an appearance of good.”

15Arcana Coelestia 9382:2: “When evil and falsity are joined together, it is called the hellish marriage, in which hell itself consists, while good and truth joined together is called the heavenly marriage, in which heaven itself consists.” See also Arcana Coelestia 5138: “For the heavenly marriage is that of good and truth, but the infernal marriage is that of evil and falsity; because where there is evil, there is also falsity, joining itself to evil as a wife to her husband.”

16True Christian Religion 580: “All may be regenerated and thus saved, because the Lord with His Divine good and truth is present with every person; this is the source of everyone’s ability to understand and will, together with freedom of choice in spiritual things…. From all this it follows that everyone may be saved. Consequently, it is not the Lord’s fault if a person is not saved, but the person’s, because the person does not co-operate.”

17Arcana Coelestia 10490:6,7: “ These words should not be taken literally, at the very least from the fact that they say without any qualification that father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters must be hated before anyone can be the Lord’s disciple, when yet it is one of the Lord's commands that no one should be hated, not even an enemy. It is self-evident that the things which are a person’s own, that is, evils and falsities in their own order, should be understood by the names of those family members, since it also says that he must hate his own soul.”

18Arcana Coelestia 4599:5 “Anyone who is not acquainted with the internal sense of the Word can only suppose that here the Lord was using comparisons, and that the expressions ‘building a tower’ and ‘going to war’ were not used to mean anything more. He does not know that each comparison in the Word has a spiritual meaning, and is representative, and that ‘building a tower’ means acquiring interior truths to oneself and 'going to war' fighting from those truths. For the subject in this quotation is the temptations undergone by those who belong to the church and are here called the Lord’s disciples. Those temptations are meant by ‘his own cross’ which each of them has to carry; and the truth that they do not in any way conquer of themselves and from what is their own but from the Lord is meant by ‘he who does not renounce all that is his own cannot be My disciple.’ This is how these expressions hang together; but if the references to a tower and to war are understood to be simply comparisons without a more interior sense they do not hang together. From this one may see what light flows from the internal sense.” See also Apocalypse Explained 922:7: “A tower signifies interior truth which looks to heaven.”

19Arcana Coelestia 2636:2,6: “All those things with which people are endowed by the Lord before regeneration, and by means of which they are regenerated, are called remains. This is signified in the Word by the number ‘ten’ and also by a ‘hundred’…. The case is similar with a ‘thousand.’” See also Arcana Coelestia 9745: “The number ‘a hundred’ has the same signification as ‘ten,’ ‘a thousand,’ and ‘ten thousand,’ all of which signify good from the Lord.”

20Arcana Coelestia 9207:4: “The phrase ‘salt that has lost its savor,’ signifies truth which is without any longing for good…. Those who are in such truth are those who are called ‘lukewarm,’ as is plain from the words which precede, that ‘no one can be a disciple of the Lord who does not renounce all that he has,’ that is, who does not love the Lord above all things.”

21Divine Providence 232: “The Lord admits people interiorly into the truths of wisdom and into the goods of love only so far as they can be kept in them right on to the end of their life.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1661:3: “Everyone fights first of all from the goods and truths that have been received…. Furthermore, when people first start to fight, they imagine that these goods and truths are their own, and that the power to resist [evil and falsity] is from themselves…. Before they can be regenerated, they must acknowledge that no good or truth comes from a person, nor does anyone have the power to resist any evil or falsity from oneself.”