Be Wise—Count the Cost
“COUNT the cost.” “Calculate the expense.”* Thus counseled Jesus Christ, the wisest man that ever walked on the earth. He spoke those words in discussing the matter of a person’s becoming one of his disciples. Nevertheless, they state a principle that can have wide application in our everyday affairs. How so?
With regard to acquiring material possessions: Due in large measure to the great amount of advertising done in the media—newspapers, magazines, TV and radio—people’s desires and wants often far outstrip their ability to pay. But for many, their longings for these things are so strong that they cannot resist the blandishments of a salesman who assures them that they can afford such things by means of installment buying: “Enjoy things while you are paying for them. Why do without them until you have enough money saved up to pay for them?” No wonder U.S. News & World Report, November 20, 1978, states: “People Going Deeper in Debt: ‘It’s Really Worrisome.’” It went on to show that private debts in the United States amounted to $2,500,000,000,000.
With what result? For many, it means personal bankruptcy due to unforeseen circumstances. Thus, in a recent year, there were a quarter million bankruptcies in the United States, 85 percent of these being, not of a business nature, but of a personal one. What do most of these bankruptcies indicate? A failure to use sound judgment; failure wisely to count the cost of extending oneself financially.
The wisdom of first counting the cost is also apparent when it comes to marriage. How many persons enter into marriage without giving due thought to all that is involved, and this is particularly true of young folks! That is why separations and divorces are so much more numerous among teen-agers than among people of any other age group. What does this suggest? That especially these persons had failed to count the cost—not just in dollars and cents.
To make a success of marriage costs a great deal. It often means paying the cost of making allowances for the shortcomings of others in the interest of peace, patiently enduring what cannot easily be changed, if at all. It means not only thinking of “us” instead of just “me,” but also being willing to put the interests of one’s mate ahead of one’s own. All of this implies a realistic view of oneself and of the other person, recognizing that no marriage is perfect and that one must take the bitter, ‘tribulation in the flesh,’ with the sweet. (1 Cor. 7:28) Yes, far more marriages would be lasting and happy if those entering them had first of all counted the cost. In the case of many young folks, this most likely would have meant wisely waiting a few years until they were better equipped in every way, mentally, physically, emotionally and financially, to assume the responsibilities of marriage.
And there are other aspects of life where a person may err, betray a lack of wisdom, by not first counting the cost. Young folks may persuade their parents to make purchases of some costly items needed for pursuing a particular hobby, only for the youngsters soon to tire of it. The youth did not count the cost of what it took in time, energy, and attention to make such an investment worth while, and so not only was his father’s money wasted but so was the time that the youth had spent on the hobby.
As noted earlier, “count the cost” was originally said by Jesus Christ in discussing the matter of a person’s becoming one of his disciples. Does becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ cost something? Indeed it does! Thus, regarding a promising popular TV star who decided to become a follower of Jesus Christ as a witness of Jehovah God, an article in the New York Sunday Daily News commented as follows:
“[She] could be living in snooty Bel Air, driving a sleek Rolls Royce, decked out in St. Laurent’s latest fashions. She could be having headlined romances, be drinking, playing around and causing a lot of talk. . . . Gone is her marvelous opportunity to become an instant millionairess, television superstar, night club sensation.”
“Mainly because she refused to permit anything or anyone to compromise her newly-found religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses. . . . A little more than a year ago, she thought nothing of dancing semi-nude, gambling, guzzling, gadding about. As she puts it, ‘I did all kinds of things before I came into the truth. I was in darkness and ignorance, and therefore I followed the standards of the world.’”
Yes, for her to become a true Christian cost her something. Did she benefit from counting the cost? Yes, for as that article went on to say: “She’s never been happier.” Much of that happiness is due to her being a full-time preacher of the good news of God’s kingdom. As a Christian with faith, she knows that far greater happiness is in store for her.
The Toronto Star, September 12, 1978, told of a hockey player who, in 1977, was the highest scoring defenseman on his team, but decided to quit. The article quoted him as saying: “I feel that I can’t devote myself to hockey and serve Jehovah. I would be splitting my devotion. It centres around principles in the Bible . . . It was no snap decision. I had thought about it a year ago.” Then after giving details about his career as a sportsman, the report further quoted him as saying:
I went to an assembly in Montreal over the summer and was baptized there, shortly after I was married. It all began when I started reading a few (Witness) publications. I felt it sounded so right. I always believed in a God, but I wasn’t totally sure. I simply came to the conclusion it is more important to serve Jehovah than to play hockey.”
After telling that he does door-to-door preaching, the article in conclusion quoted him as saying: “I don’t have to work for a while—my accountant invested well for me. I realize the money I made was quite a lure, but it’s more important to do what is pleasing to Jehovah.” No question about it, he also counted the cost and willingly began paying it.
However, there is one aspect about what Jesus said as to counting the cost that is not generally appreciated. What is that? Just what did Jesus mean when he said to his disciples back there to “count the cost”? Did he mean for them to weigh, in the first place, all the pros and cons as to whether an individual would want to become a disciple of his or not? (Such would be the case, of course, in such matters as investing in material things.) No, the counting of the cost that Jesus referred to was not as to a person’s deciding whether he would become a disciple of his or not, but, rather, as to inquiring about what is involved.
As The Watchtower once expressed it: “God’s Word counsels us to count the cost. Not so as to determine whether we should dedicate ourselves [to do God’s will] or not—there is but one answer to that question—but so as to appreciate what is involved. So that we will be prepared to say, as Jesus on that occasion also put it, ‘goodbye to all our belongings,’ should that be necessary.”
In these days it is quite likely that some did not fully count the cost when dedicating themselves to do God’s will and to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Because of this, as tests came of one kind or another, such as persecutions or temptations as to materialism or immorality, they fell by the way. How sad! Jehovah’s reward for faithfully serving him is certain, for his promises never fail—be it this year, next year, or in the resurrection. The wise Christian, having counted the cost of what is involved in becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, has no regrets.—Josh. 23:14.
Luke 14:28, Revised Standard Version, New World Translation.