‘If anyone who comes to me and does not hate…his own life, he cannot be my disciple’ ~ Luke 14:26
Think this is controversial? Wait till you hear what other things you are to hate. Jesus says one has to hate ‘his mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters’ (v28). He proceeds to say ‘and in the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has he cannot be my disciple’ (v33). Hard words to swallow. How can a God who is love tell us to hate the very things close to us? But when God talks of hate, He does not mean it in the deranged way we humans do, i.e. if I hate my life, I live it recklessly or if I hate my family, I set them ablaze. It took me years to get what Jesus meant, out of real life experiences.
Jesus had spoken these words right after He had attended a banquet in the house of a prominent Pharisee. Instead of enjoying the fine choice meals and make up for the times spent in the scorching Judean sun, Jesus starts making harangues then gives a ‘Parable of the Great Banquet’ whereby a man prepares a great banquet and asks his servant to tell those who have been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready’ (v17). However, the invited guests give excuses. This angers the master who tells his servant to instead invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and lame in the streets and alleys.
Jesus’s focus shifts from an actual feast and strays to some other feast. I doubt He even enjoyed the food because two years ago, I came to know that it was possible to hate the finer things in life, even good food. Away for a Conference, I was staying in a whatever-star hotel (I somehow forgot to count the constellations), but it was good by the standards of Trip Advisor. As work protocol, I was given a couple hundred dollars for meals. I just had to dial ‘0’ and room service would bring my choice meal. For a reason I could not fathom, I ended up not ordering a single meal. It was only on the last day that I ordered a good meal whose taste I cannot remember. I ended up returning the money I had not spent, and my colleagues thought I was crazy.
For some reason since, meals at mega hotels I visited seemed bland and arrays of buffet would make me queasy. Little did I know that life, not just food was about to lose its lustre. By the time I was 23, I was ‘rising the corporate ladder’. Before I had climbed well in, I decided to climb back down- to my dismay. Before I could even make ‘enough’ money, it had quickly lost value to me. Before I could sample worldwide cuisines, a lavish life seemed pointless. Before I could make a mark in the world, I stepped away from the system. The realisation that nothing counts, everything is meaningless under the sun and that no one can have your back, even your family, except God, is how one hates life.
In Jesus’s ‘Parable of the Banquet’ the invited guests give excuses, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ ‘I have just got married, so I can’t come’ (v18-20). We excuse ourselves out of the eternal Kingdom of God to fulfil desires of a fleeting earthly kingdom. We put the cart before the horse because, when we ‘seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all other things shall be added to us’ (Matthew 6:33). If we chase life first, it becomes hard, impossible even, to follow God afterwards. Jesus says, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’ (Mark 10:25).
Jesus describes us as ‘salt’. After telling crowds to hate their lives, Jesus adds, ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness how can it be made salty again?’ (Luke 14:34). Using an analogy of a commodity used in banquets, the great banquet (God’s kingdom) requires salt, which is each of us. However, we lose our saltiness by ‘loving the world and the things in it’ (1 John 2:15). Jesus clearly states that ‘you cannot serve both God and Money’ (Matthew 6:24) and adds, ‘for the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them’ (v32). God, is the master in the Parable who has prepared a banquet for us in heaven but like the invited guests, we fail to accept the invitation because we chase fleeting things here on earth. In an unfortunate fashion, we forfeit an abundant life for a ‘good’ life.